A Fourth of July Celebration at the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta

Runners at the front of the pack at Atlanta's Peachtree Road Race

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!

Photo of the Week – A Marathon in Vienna

A few years ago, I went to Vienna as part of a series of offices visits for a client. Vienna meetings were conveniently scheduled for a Friday so the weekend could be enjoyed in the former Imperial capital.

As the Peachtree Road Race approaches in my hometown, a race I ran for 10 yrs before deciding the 1 mile walk from home to be a spectator was more fun, I think of the happy coincidence: it was the weekend of the Vienna Marathon. I have such luck sometimes. The same happened when I visited Florence.

Marathons, or any road race for that matter, offer great opportunities for photos of the human effort. However, one of my favorite pictures captures one of the most important spots along a marathon route: the water stops… This is the aftermath after one such stop…

Runners and paper cups on the Vienna marathon

(Photo taken with Canon EOS Rebel)

Running to Explore Washington, D.C.

I write this post in March 2011 when I started a project in D.C.  We are near the end of 2012 and I am still on the project in D.C.  It is neat to re-read what I wrote about when I first “landed” in D.C.!

I am lucky to find myself working in another great location.  This is one much closer to home the last:  Santiago, Chile.  By about 8 hrs by plane.  I am now in Washington, D.C., the U.S. capital and one of the most important cities in the world.  The simplified and shortened commute is making for a happier me and a less tired body.  Arriving at work after flying in is different than after the 9.5 hr red eye to Santiago!

I love D.C. because I feel the cosmopolitan nature of the city with embassies and international organizations everywhere.  I feel the energy of probably many events happening here – without being aware of them – that can impact more than a few.  Of course, one can also take the view that perhaps a lot of nothing happens here but I will leave that for other blogs and keep my opinions to myself though I will say there is truth to both views 🙂  Again, I love this city.

Lots to Explore in Washington, D.C.

I am very fortunate that my work location is just 2 blocks from the White House and I get to stay generally within a 2 mile radius of that location which makes for nice walks to and from work and exploring different side streets and some of what I considerable highly desirable residential areas of DC.  Longer walks can take me to Chinatown with the many good eateries and more touristy sites like the Spy Museum and others.  A cab or rail ride away are other neighborhoods with very distinct personalities.  one that I have recently been introduced to is Capitol Hills.  Many eateries and a charming area with my favorite eatery being Belga Cafe where the mussels dishes are phenomenal.

Since I am here during the week for the most part, I have not explored the tourist sites.  Having been here many times before, I probably have covered a good number of them.  However, some I last saw in 1983 and others more recently but still a decade ago.  So I will spend a few weekends here this year catching up on known ones and exploring the new ones.  Of the places I have seen, the Holocaust Museum ranks up there as do the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials and the other memorials that have sprung in that area like the Vietnam Memorial.  Of the places I haven’t seen, I hope to finally do a tour of the White House, perhaps see a session of Congress and maybe even a Supreme Court session.  Of the museums, I would like to re visit the Smithsonian ones for sure.  But I know there are smaller ones that are worth exploring.

This week I am staying in Rosslyn for a change.  Normally I like to stay in downtown D.C. proper, like at the Mayflower Hotel.  Tonight I wanted to go for a run and thought I’d run by the river, something I’ve wanted to do since I arrived here.  I ran a couple of weeks ago from the hotel past the White House to the Washington Monument down The Mall to the Capitol.  What a neat run!  On the return leg, as we passed the White House, the Presidential motorcade was making its way back to the White House.  That was a real treat.  No matter what stripes you wear, the office of the President of the U.S. is awe-inspiring in spite of the occupants.  Seeing the motorcade made me proud.

My Running Route

So today I ran across the Key Bridge down past the “new” waterfront in Georgetown towards Watergate and the Kennedy Center and across the Memorial Bridge to the trail on the Virginia side of the Potomac.  I decided to bring my small digital camera with me and think I got some neat shots as the sun was lower in the sky and provided nice light. Some of the sights during my run:

Looking towards Watergate from the Key Bridge above the Potomac

Looking towards Watergate from the Key Bridge

View of the Georgetown Canal

View of the Georgetown Canal

Rowers in the Potomac at sunset along Memorial Bridge

Rowers in the Potomac

Lincoln and Washington Memorials and Memorial Bridge in the foreground

Lincoln and Washington Memorials

It was cold and especially when crossing the Memorial Bridge as it was windier.  But the run was excellent and I even got to go by the famous cherry trees currently blossoming.  Normally, I get bored running on my own but I have a feeling that will not be the case in this city!  I am beginning to think running tourism should be a new travel category – I am looking forward to looking for new routes and exploring the area via my running, killing two birds with a stone.

What other unique ways can you think to explore new places?

Wine and Running DO Mix: The Festive Bordeaux Marathon in the Medoc, France

Bordeaux marathon (France)

No, this article is not about drinking lots of Bordeaux wine until you are exhausted from all the exercise of lifting the glass, pouring wine, lifting the glass again, uncorking another bottle, and pouring again.  Nor is it about visiting 26 chateaux in one day for wine tasting.  It is about the race that takes place in September in the Medoc area of Bordeaux (actually the name of the marathon is Marathon du Medoc, http://www.marathondumedoc.com/).  It is one of the funnest races I have been a part of – not only the wine but because runners come all dressed up and bring props too (be careful one of those props doesn’t run you over, I had a close call!).

Bordeaux marathon  (France)

Lady bugs ready to run

Wine barrel as a prop in the Bordeaux marathon (France)

The barrel is to push ALL the way during the marathon. Nuts!

The Bordeaux Marathon…

My friends (Chris and Wendy) and I thought of going after a larger group had spoken about going together, renting a house, and perhaps some of us running the marathon.  In the end, between one thing and another, the group whittled down to just the 3 of us.  We pretended to train for the marathon as we planned the trip…

My plan was not to run the entire marathon (while I have ran a half before, I really think the human body is not intended for the punishment of a marathon; marathon runners out there, I am not saying you are crazy, but I would be if I ran one!).  I figured I could train for about 6 or 7 miles and, on the day of, perhaps crank another 6 miles out of adrenaline gained by just being part of the event.  And I say event not race because this marathon is an event.

The festive atmosphere begins at the starting line with music blaring and a lot of staring – at the wild and crazy costumes (or sometimes, almost nothing on…) and props.  Then participants go through small towns in the Medoc, past chateaux, through chateaux, or even in between vines in a chateau (and I won’t tell you what I saw some runners do on those vines…  that je-ne-sais-quoi that makes Bordeaux wines SO unique…).

Chateau in the route of the Bordeaux marathon (Frnace)

Great views along the way

Oh, and did I mention that along the way, various chateaux are serving wine to the runners?  I don’t know how the finish line scene looks but after 26 miles of running-walking and sampling wines, I can only imagine.

Bordeaux marathon going through Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, St. Julien

Going through Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, St. Julien

As I said, I had planned to run part of the marathon but I was not planning to walk 13 miles to get to the end.  So, my friends and I scouted the route the day before with the route map to find what would be an easy-to-find spot for them to pick me up that fit within the range I planned to run.

Large wine bottle landmark in Bordeaux, France

Easy enough landmark to remember, you think?

In reality this turned out to be around mile 6 as for the next 10-15 miles, there did not seem to be a town that would be easy to get to with the road closures or a spot easy to find.  It so happened that my stopping point was one of the chateaux that was serving wine to runners… coincidence or miracle?  You be the judge…

Wine stop at a chateau during the Bordeaux marathon (France)

Wine stop!

Runners do get to pick up their race number, etc. the day before at the race fair event.  It is a good thing as it helped us figure out how to get to the starting line since we were not familiar with the region.  Even though we had done that, the day of the marathon itself we still had some challenges along the way and ended up following a bus that we identified outside of the city of Bordeaux as likely heading to the marathon!

I greatly enjoyed the run and those 6 miles passed so fast not because I am fast but because of the fun environment. I carried my small digital camera with me and enjoyed snapping pictures along the way.  People dress up for the event and some have props though watch out, one big thing on wheels got out of control on a downhill and almost ran a few of us over…

Going through Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, St. Julien

Runners with their LARGE prop – runners beware: they are drinking and pushing!

Even if you are not a serious runner or not ready for the distance, I would encourage anyone to try it like I did and experience running and wine in a new way.  I do recommend to stay close to the Medoc (we were staying at the far end of the Bordeaux region which led to a too-early-for-humans wake up call).  If you are a serious runner, it is a fantastic run through beautiful land and sites but you may want to stay away from the wine stops 🙂

There was a good number of things we wished we had known about the marathon and the area before we got there.  Do you have any questions?  Maybe we can help?   We found it hard ahead of the trip to find good info in English, hence the offer…

This entry has received a lot of hits!  What information are you seeking about the Bordeaux marathon?  We’d love to hear from you!

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