The Woody’s Marathon continues to prove it’s the little RV that could.
With its 17th edition on Sunday in the books, the marathon continues to establish its place as one of the must-run events on the Alberta road race calendar.
This year they surpassed their goal of 1,500 runners while an estimated 4,500-5,500 people watched either at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School or along the 42.2-kilometre course.
“This course is made for runners,” said race director Jason Hazlett. “To us, this will be the best race course in Alberta. It may not be the biggest race, because how do you compete against Edmonton? How do you compete against Calgary for the numbers? But when we’ve got people coming from Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie and Cold Lake and Medicine Hat and Lethbridge coming up to do our race because of our scenic trails, that tells us that Red Deer has done something right and created an incredible environment for runners.”
Camrose’s Brendan Lunty became the first man to win the marathon five years in a row, surpassing Jack Cook’s mark of four straight, while the women’s race was won by newcomer Rhonda Loo from Lake Newell Resort near Brooks. Meanwhile, Red Deer’s Dusty Spiller set a record in the half marathon, with a winning time of 1:12:31.95, while Jen Moroz from Vancouver was the fastest woman in the 21.1 kilometre race with a time of 1:22:42.65.
Beyond medals, local artists Brian McArthur and Dawn Detarando of Voyageur Art & Tile fabricated championship beer steins for each podium finish while they also made tiles painted with a scene from River Bend Golf Course section of the race for each of the age group winners.
There were several new wrinkles added to this year’s even, including a kid’s race, a marathon relay, a tent city on the Lindsay Thurber site and a Woody’s Egger sandwich that was provided by Red Deer Co-op and the Food Bank that went to each of the runners.
It all added to the atmosphere of the race.
“All of the improvements we added to race … they went extremely well,” said Hazlett. “There are other improvements we will look at, but the committee will make the race better for 2016.”
The Red Deer Food Bank and Right to Play will both benefit from the marathon this year.
Organizers will continue to investigate new ways to make the race better for the coming years, including tinkering with the start time of the kids’ race, improved course marking, better organizing of volunteers for things like tearing down, and expansion of the tent city. One of the new tents Hazlett wants to eventually see is a TV tent where spectators can follow along on a couple of big screens.
“I want people to be able to watch the race as it’s in progress,” he said. “We’ll have our competitive type of television where you’re watching your leaders for the full, the half and the 10Ks … and on the other television, you’ll be looking at your participants running by check points.”