The Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, Georgia is a 4th of July tradition since the race was started in 1970. It grew to be the largest 10K in the world with over 55,000 in 2007 and then it lost that title. But for years, it was the largest one and it still feels like the largest one.
Did I Run the Peachtree Road Race?
The runners cover a challenging course with steep hills and usually heat and humidity. I ran the Peachtree for 10 yrs in a row and decided to break the streak last year. See, I didn’t want to be one of those people who cannot go out of town that weekend of the 4th because they have been doing the Peachtree for the last X yrs, with X ranging from the teens to the low 30s in number of years. I wanted to break that streak and also save myself the waking up somewhere between 5-6AM to then tackle those steep hills and heat and humidity. This year, I decided to pass up the opportunity to run again 🙂
The Prized Reward – T-Shirt
That opportunity (in the form of a race number) is not easy to get. To get a number, the best way is to have run a qualifying race. But it is not only about getting a number but getting placed in a group ahead of the masses who likely will do a little more walking – and then slow down the folks who want to run it and maybe improve their time. Be aware that the “walk to the sides and leave the middle open” rule is not observed to the great annoyance of most runners, especially when folks decide to stop running all of a sudden and the runner behind then has to do whatever to avoid running into them (no comment…).
It is not unusual at the end of June or early July to hear around town “know anyone with a number for the Peachtree who is not going to use it?”. Why? Why not just run the course with the numbered runners? Well, you are right that the feeling of accomplishment would be the same but you may not know that the REAL reward is one of the prized t-shirts. People do whatever to get one of those: apply for the race & run it, get it from the spouse, buy it in eBay afterwards, or… get a number and join in on mile 1, 2, or 3 as you need the number to claim the shirt at the end of the race. Dante’s inferno now has a tenth circle for the cheaters in that last group… At least walk the whole thing! It is perfectly fine to walk it!!!
In my opinion, not all the designs over the last dozen years are THAT good. I only have like two favorites in the group of t-shirts I have – and, no, none are for sale 🙂
A Hill to Remember – If You Survive It
Now, we have to talk about the lovingly-name Cardiac Hill which is around mile 3.5 and is conveniently situated by Piedmont Hospital. That hill is BRUTAL. It makes little boys of grown men. Depending on my conditioning on a given year, I could run it all the way and STILL keep running after it. But even then it was NEVER easy. Get it? NEVER. On bad years, I walked for a minute or I would make it to the top and then breakdown and walk for a few minutes. The pictures you will see here are all taken RIGHT when the runners have finished Cardiac Hill whether running it or walking it. You can see it in their faces. The later in the race, the more the ratio of walkers to runners goes to the walkers (the people in the front qualified so are more likely to have better conditioning). But even in the years when I could do Cardiac Hill and the immediate aftermath, there was a subtle hill around mile 4 that was worse for me. Though it wasn’t as steep as Cardiac Hill, it seemed to be never-endingly long. That’s the one that challenged me every single year. I have run the Peachtree end-to-end without walking but that hill always tested me…
Spectating: The Thing to Do – If You Are Not Running It
So, if not running it now, what do I do? I spectate (sounds too much like Kaopectate..). Spectators line up Peachtree Street (THE Peachtree Street, not one of the 100 or so impostors scattered around the city) from Lenox Mall down to Piedmont Park. They make noise, cheer runners, high five runners, and on occasion imbibe their favorite drinks… hey, the offer them to runners too – I recall being offered beer when I ran it (never partook).
In any case, the Peachtree Road Race is great way to celebrate the good ole U.S. of A.’s birthday and share as a city a good time whether running or spectating (oh, or volunteering! it takes a lot of them and I thank them!)
Enjoy the pictures showing the grit, effort, joy, and tiredness of the runners! Click on the picture to open a new window with the full picture!