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Wood is the right choice

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On Monday, it was announced that Bob Wood has been hired as executive race director for the Deseret News Marathon/KJZZ Marathon and 10K.

Pardon my saying so, but it's about time.

Talk about a no-brainer.

The annual Pioneer Days footraces — a fixture in the community for more than 30 years — were crying for help, and Wood was just standing on the street corner, watching. It was like playing the Super Bowl each July with Bill Walsh sitting in the stands. There might be nobody in the country who knows more about the running world than Wood, and he lives right here in Salt Lake City.

"He knows the ins and outs of road racing because he was involved in it at the highest levels for a couple of decades," said Ed Eyestone, the two-time Olympic marathoner and BYU coach. "He has seen what made the good races good and the bad races bad."

"How cool is that," said Tony Reavis when he heard the news. Reavis is one of the more knowledgeable people in road running, and a veteran TV analyst for many of the top marathons and road races. "There hasn't been a better man in the sport in my time. He knows the sport inside and out."

Why wouldn't he? Is there anything Wood hasn't done in running? He was a runner himself, on the road and track (he was a four-time Wyoming state high school mile champ who later ran for the University of Utah).

He coached. He managed a retail running store. He managed a running club. He organized road races. He even wrote stories for Runner's World Magazine. He was an agent for many of the world's top road racers for some 20 years, representing Olympians from 23 different countries (Running Times and Runner's World magazines named him one of the top agents in the world).

He served as head of delegation for American teams at international races.

He was chairman of long distance running for USA Track and Field.

He was appointed head official for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and the Olympic Games.

If there was anything going on in the running world, Wood knew about it. He filled an entire notebook with phone numbers of runners, officials, agents, race directors and others around the world. For about two decades he attended an average of about 25 road races a year.

Not surprisingly, even Wood's children are involved in running — Samuel coaches the cross country team at Woods Cross High School, whose members include Wood's other two sons, Seth and Issac.

In 1994, American Runner magazine named Wood the fourth most powerful man in road running. Then he went out and proved it. In 1996, he took on Olan Cassell, who ruled USA track and field like a dictator for 31 years. For decades people had tried and failed to get him removed, but he was too powerful. It was like trying to throw Don King out of boxing. Wood finally decided enough was enough and launched a campaign to dump Cassell. The track world was shocked when it succeeded and Cassell was voted out.

All of the above came with a price. Wood, a legendary worrier, suffered from burnout. He bowed out of the sport a few years ago and earned a living in basketball — as an agent for European professional players, as part owner of a professional team in England and as owner and operator of basketball camps.

"It took me a couple of years to recover from the work I did with USA Track and Field," he says. "I was so burned out. It was 15, 16 hours a day. I needed to get away from it. But when I started going to my sons' meets, I found that I missed it. It's been such a part of my life."

When the job of race director was dangled in front of him, he couldn't resist. "It has rekindled my interest," he says. "The Deseret Morning News (race) has been a sleeping giant for a long time. We need to get it into the 21st century and do this right."

Wood is just the man for the job.

E-MAIL: drob@desnews.com