When the Calgary Marathon switched dates last year, moving from early July to the end of May, it had a definite affect on the numbers for the Red Deer Woody’s RV World Marathon and Half Marathon.
The total entries dipped to 1,060 from a record high of 1,324 in 2008.
But the slide didn’t last long.
In fact the 12th annual Woody’s affair is expected to draw close to 1,300 by the time the runners step to the start line at 8 a.m. Sunday in front of Camille J. Lerouge.
“Our numbers did dip last year because Calgary moved their dates, but we’re pleased to say we’re back to where we normally are,” said race co-chairman Darlene Henderson, who is working alongside Jason Hazlett.
It’s little wonder the numbers are back up as the Red Deer affair is one of the top-ranked road races in the province.
Last year the race was ranked No. 4 in the province behind the Calgary Marathon, Melissa’s Road Race in Banff and the Footstock Race Weekend in Cochrane.
Woody’s ranked No. 5 in 2008 and No. 4 in 2007. The award is tabulated from a province-wide survey conducted by Athletics Alberta, which allows all participants to evaluate each race they competed at.
Henderson, along with Don Murdoch, has been involved with the race since it’s inception and believes the work of the committee and the volunteers goes a long way toward the events success.
“When we first started our biggest concern was to put on a quality race and keep it a quality race,” said Henderson. “We find that we’ll go to a race and for the first few years it’s great, then things start to dwindle. We really focused on keeping our race a top-quality run and not let the little things go by the wayside. In fact we feel we’re making it better.”
Over the years the organizing committee has made the events surrounding the race as entertaining as the run itself.
They’ve added a Speaker Series last year and this year a Fitness and Wellness Expo at the Black Knight Inn.
Second annual Speakers Series is sponsored by the Red Deer Runners and Runners Den with a total of five speakers, who will provide last minute race tips, information on sports nutrition and fitness demonstrations. The series runs Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Expo.
The Fitness and Wellness Expo, which includes 13 running and wellness related vendors, runs Friday from 4-8 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Two time Olympic marathoner Bruce Deacon is the guest speaker at the annual pasta dinner Saturday evening. Deacon has the second-most sub 2:20 marathons in Canadian history with a personal best of 2:13.18.
This year’s edition of the race will also have a new look as it will be run in reverse order. The start and finish will be the same, but the first half of the race will circle around River Bend Golf Course and Three Mile Bend with the second half heading out to Heritage Ranch.
“Basically the change was made because they shut down the water treatment plant,” explained Henderson. “Before the runners all headed around Heritage Ranch and then back toward River Bend. But this year we have to reroute the runners because we don’t have access to the trail between the train bridge and Taylor Drive. So it’s easier to reroute a couple of hundred runners rather than 1,300.”
l Defending marathon champion Jack Cook of Edmonton, who also won in 2006, will return along with last years’ female winner, Neasa Coll of Calgary . . . The half marathon could be an interesting battle between two-time defending champion Brian Torrance of Edmonton and three-time winner Dallas Raudebaugh of Blackfalds, who now calls Edmonton home . . . Raudebaugh won in 2003, 2004 and 2007 . . . Numbers are up in several areas with 35 registered in the U19 age class, up from 23, and 45 in the 60-69 year-old division and seven in the 70 and over category, up from 29 and five respectively . . . 45 per cent of the participants are from Central Alberta and 95 per cent from Alberta . . . There are participants from California, Indiana, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oregon and Texas as well as one from Cork, Ireland . . . The Red Deer Marathon Society, which organizes the Woody’s race, is supporting the Parkinson’s Society.