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Local Sports

Woods calls the world of marble racing

Greg Woods, a 2007 Newton High School graduate, is in front of his computer at his Fort Dodge home as he works on the commentary for a Jelle’s Marble Runs marble racing video. Woods and the marble racing YouTube channel has taken center stage as an outlet for sports fans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Greg Woods, a 2007 Newton High School graduate, is in front of his computer at his Fort Dodge home as he works on the commentary for a Jelle’s Marble Runs marble racing video. Woods and the marble racing YouTube channel has taken center stage as an outlet for sports fans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Are you looking for sports to watch? Are you tired of watching re-runs of sporting events or television shows in this time of isolation and quarantine?

Newton native Greg Woods invites all of you to tune into the world of Jelle’s Marble Runs. Woods is the commentator for all things marble racing for the Jelle and Dion Bakker, brothers from the Netherlands, Internet sports offering.

“There are underdogs, upsets and unexpected moments. Yes, I’m talking about marbles racing on a track,” Woods said. “Ultimately, as a sport fan this connects with the emotions to whatever sport we like. We seek out these story lines.

“When it is packaged in a lighthearted and good natured way in a very different world than what we are in, it is really easy to escape. Sure, it’s marbles but after you watch you’ll begin to cheer along.”

As Americans and the world are in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, Woods is part of a world known well by the marble racing community on YouTube but just in the past week or so he is becoming a household name. His and the Jelle’s Marble Runs story is headlining on ESPN, in Sports Illustrated, Time Magazine and many more news outlets.

“A video of one of the Sand Marble Rally races went viral this week on Twitter and this thing has blown up,” Woods said. “It featured a blue marble named Comet on the sand track going down a hill in the Netherlands. It was the only race Comet has won in his career and it was a very good race.”

Woods, a 2007 Newton High graduate, became a Formula One racing fan because of his father, Doug, in 2004. Woods said his father has been a big F1 fan since the 1950s when the races were on the Wide World of Sports.

“Dad woke me up one morning and said ‘I think you might like this.’ It was the Monaco Grand Prix and they were racing on the streets of Monte Carlo and I thought it was cool,” Woods said. “Over the next year I got completely engrossed in the sport.”

About 10 years later, Woods came upon a video of Jelle’s Marble Runs on Redditt. Things meshed in the mind of the motorsports fan and a new part-time career emerged.

“I watched the first few seconds of it. It was the Sand Rally and I’d never seen anything like it — marbles racing down a trench on a hill and the marbles had names, there was a lineup of racers,” Woods said. “I thought it would be funny if I called it like a F1 Grand Prix race. I recorded the spoof of me doing that race, posted it as a reply on Redditt.”

Woods said his “spoof” blew up and it made it to Jelle. He said Jelle reached out to him asking if Woods would want to do the commentary on all of Jelle’s videos moving forward. The racing videos are created by Jelle and Dion in the Netherlands.

Woods has been the voice of the Jelle’s Marble Runs three racing series since the summer of 2016. The three series are the Sand Marble Rally, which began it all, Marble League (formerly Marblelympics) and the newest series of Marbula 1.

“Marbula 1 is the an eight-weekend season which began this month. There is qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday. The Sand Marble Rally is weather dependent since it is outdoors in the Netherlands and usually there are 10 or 12 races in a season,” Woods said. “The Marble League is roughly 15 events similar to Olympic style events over a two-week span as we do a new video every three or four days.”

Woods said right now with the Marbula 1 series they are doing live premiers on the YouTube channel. He said last weekend had more than 16,000 watching it at one time. Woods said this week Jelle’s Marble Runs is up above 700,000 subscribers on YouTube.

The race videos are produced in the Netherlands then sent to Woods to provide the commentary. He said when he started with the brothers, the races are marbles rolling down a course on a hill with one camera following. Woods said the production value of the videos are “insanely different. There are stands with fans, the tracks, crowd chants and timing splits.”

“They had 4 million views this week. The Twitter video went viral earlier on during the COVID-19 quarantine and isolation has had 35 million views,” Woods said. “We have celebrities tweeting about the races and the news outlets contacting us. It’s surreal.

“I’m proud to be a part of this. Jelle and Dion and their team produce tremendous videos with the tracks, the race crowds, which are all marbles, the backstories on the racing marbles. I just love that it is helping spread happiness as we’re attempting to slow down the spread of the virus by staying home.”

Woods is 2011 graduate of Drake University with a degree in neuroscience. He attended the University of Iowa for graduate school and spent a couple years in the UI medical school.

“I loved the public health side of things so my master’s degree is in community and behavioral health. Straight out of graduate school I took a job with the Alzheimer’s Association of Iowa and moved to Fort Dodge,” Woods said.

Woods, who is the son of Lashelle and Doug Woods of Newton, is a program specialist and research champion for the Alzheimer’s Association. He gives educational programs and is a regrional spokesperson for the Alzheimer’s Association on all things on research from local, national and international resources. Woods has a weekly radio show in Fort Dodge on whatever is happening in brain research.

“Viewing the marble races is a great way to fill the void of no sports right now. I know who is in the race but not where they are until the race begins. I study up on the marble colors, names. Jelle might put on the screen there’s fight in the stands and I just run with it,” Woods said.

There are racing teams for each series. Woods said there might be some cross over of racers between the Marble League and the Marbula 1 races. There are unofficial Twitter accounts for racing teams like the Oceanics or Savage Speeders.

“Our fans really get into it just like any other type of racing. They help name marbles and have helped develop the lore of it. I’ll take bits of fans’ stories off their accounts and build it into my commentary of races,” Woods said.

Contact Jocelyn Sheets at
641-792-3121 ext. 6535
or jsheets@newtondailynews.com

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