There promises to be unwelcomed guests, however — the humidity, if not lightning.
The race starts at 7:30 a.m., and weather.com’s hourly forecast for 7-8 a.m. calls for 93 percent humidity and isolated thunderstorms.
The temperature projects at a mild 74 degress, and there’s only a 30 percent chance of precipitation, but the humidity sounds brutal for the 1,500-plus runners who will be running up the Woodstock course’s hills.
“I think the guys are going to be pretty strong, but with the humidity on Saturday morning, I think it’s going to be really tough for them to set another course record,” Woodstock race director Dennis Dunn said. “I say that every year, and then somebody steps up like Reuben (Mwei) did last year and proves me wrong.”
Woodstock organizers added prize money for breaking the course record two years ago, an additional $500, and the men’s and women’s course records fell each year.
Mwei set the standard a year ago, finishing the 3.1-mile course in 14 minutes, 16 seconds. He beat George Towett’s time of 14:19 in 2010.
Janet Cherobon-Bawcom broke the women’s record two years in a row, winning in 16:46 in 2010 and 16:20 a year ago.
Mwei will return this year and sounds confident.
“We ran a good time last year and broke the record, and I hope this year will be the same and we’ll run fast, faster than last year,” he said. “This year, I’m expecting to be faster than last year.”
Cherobon-Bawcom won’t be back. She ran the 10,000-meter run for Team USA in the Olympics on Friday, finishing 12th in 31:12.68 and improving her personal best time by 20 seconds.
Though the record-breaker the past two years won’t be in Anniston today, her record could be in jeopardy. Risper Gesabwa, who was in Anniston a year ago but ended up watching the race because of a sore hamstring, holds a 5K personal-best time of 15:46.
She did it on the road, in the Freihofer’s Run for Women 5K on June 2 in Albany, N.Y.
“I don’t know how it will be on Saturday, but I hope I will run good,” Gesabwa said. “I will try my best to win the race, but with that heat, it will be hard to break the course (record).”
The men’s field returns the top three finishers from 2011, including second-place finisher Elkanah Kibet (14:26) and third-place finisher Emmanuel Bor (14:37).
Dunn expects Mwei to get a challenge, and not just from last year’s most immediate challengers. Jeff Rhodes has run a 14:44 and Jeremy Moujoodi a 14:56.
“You’ve have a really strong group there at the front of the men’s field,” Dunn said. “There’s five guys that could win it, I think, right off the bat. I think it’s going to be really interesting.
“I think it’s going to be a very competitive race. I don’t think anybody is going to run off and leave somebody, so I think that will help the frontrunners, to have somebody chasing them and not letting them give up.”
The women’s elite field will miss more than Cherobon-Bawcom. Stephanie Pezzullo, who won the 2009 Woodstock in 17:35, withdrew this week because of an injury to her right gluteal. She’s resting the injury ahead of the Chicago Marathon.
Gesabwa appears to be the class of the field, though Lydia Kosgei has won a 16:03 indoors and 16:39 on the road.
“On the women’s side, I expect a new course record, based on the times that Risper Gesabwa has been able to post up this year,” Dunn said. “If she’s able to come out and run her race, you’ll see another women’s record.
“If Lydia Kosgei comes in, she can run a 16-minute, so she could challenge for a course record or challenge to win, but we’ll just have to see.”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.