On July 4, the Atlanta Track Club hosts the Peachtree Road Race. It’s a tradition 45 years strong, and it boasts the standing of the world’s largest 10km road race. It’s a giant running parade, basically. In 2013 and again this year, the race has also played host to the US 10km Championships. Coupled with the news that Olympian and 2014 Boston Marathon winner, Meb Keflezighi would be running for the Kilometer Kids charity, it shaped up to be a really cool event.
July 4 in Atlanta is usually anything but cool, however, so the weather reports on Wednesday evening had everyone cautiously optimistic. The forecasts were saying around 66 at sunrise with 79% humidity (which is low for this time of year). The only cooler July 4 in recent history was in 1986, when the starting temperature was 62. A course record was set in 1996, when it was 63 and overcast at the start of the race. It’s always a gamble.
The race is capped at somewhere around 60,000 participants. Those who wish to register can submit a time from a previous race (on a certified course) to gain an earlier start wave placement. If you don’t submit a time, you run the risk of being placed in a later wave, starting as much as an hour and a half after the clock begins (although the streets are still packed with cheering spectators). There are always bandits, given the size of the race, although most join later as friends pass by them on Peachtree Road. The best part of the Peachtree, however, is the crowd support. There are groups for whom spectating is an annual tradition. There are countless parties along the race route, and even more in the meadow at Piedmont Park, after the race finish.
The other special part of the Peachtree is the coveted T-shirt. The race puts out design finalists a few months ahead of the race and participants (and anyone, really) can vote on their favorite. The chosen design is revealed when you receive your shirt after you cross the finish line. There’s no expo T-shirt pick-up.
We (my husband, Neil, ran the race with me) lined up in our start corral around 7:10am for the 7:30am start. The elite women took off at 7:15am and then we were off. I had Neil’s voice in my head during the first mile, “Don’t go out too fast and sacrifice your marathon training today.” Argh. But I knew he was right. At the first mile, I checked my watch – 7:44. Well, I certainly didn’t go out too fast.
Oh – the other thing about the Peachtree is that it’s split in elevation. The first mile is flat, followed by two miles downhill, and then you’re smacked with three miles uphill. The course turns at 10th and Peachtree Street for a brief downhill/uphill into the finish chute. Yeah, the Atlanta Track Club is (in)famous for their hilly courses. Actually, Atlanta is famous for their hilly race courses.
There’s a famous hill in the race, right by Piedmont Hospital, known as Cardiac Hill. People talk about it in a way that makes it seem like you’re basically trying to climb a mountain. It’s legendary. What boggles my mind is that Cardiac Hill isn’t the worst hill on the course. It’s the hill that follows Cardiac Hill that is much worse. It’s not as steep, but it’s long and constant.
As you can see from my screenshot above, I had a good race. It’s a challenging course at a challenging time of year to race in the southern states. It’s my best 10k time so far and I’m pleased. There’s still room for improvement, and I’ve improved my time each year. With an elite field and participation at just over 57,000 finishers (those who joined in the race after the starting line, even with a bib, were removed from the official finishers list), I knew I wasn’t going to win an age group prize. I was happy to be finished, although I feel like I could have run that first mile 10-15 seconds faster. Neil ran the race he set out to run, although realized at the finish that he’d miscalculated his target pace per mile. He was sidelined by some bad math, and not pacing and crowds. He’s a goal pace ninja, my husband. He could work as a race pace group leader and really help people meet their goals.
|Post-race photo op
The post-race party in Piedmont Park is rivaled by no other race in Atlanta. There are food tables, party tents, and throngs of people milling around. It’s the second best part of the race, and I’m saying this as someone who really doesn’t like crowds. Overall, it’s a great way to start off a celebratory day/weekend.
What did you do to celebrate Independence Day?