I’ve wanted to run the AJC Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta for several years, but it just never worked out for my logistically to plan a trip around it. I was thrilled when I found out that I was moving back to Georgia earlier this year and immediately went to register for it only to find out I’d missed the opportunity to guarantee and entry by joining the Atlanta Track Club by about a week. Fortunately, there was still the lottery option so I entered and back in April found out I’d been chosen.
The Peachtree is held on the Fourth of July every year in Atlanta and is a big tradition. Lots of families run it together and there are many people who run it year after year. It’s the biggest sanctioned 10K in the US as well and while I’ve run big races, they’ve all been marathons so I was curious as to how they’d manage to get 60,000 people through a 10K course.
My original plan was to drive up the morning before, but since I’d registered from Alaska before I had a Georgia address, I’d also chosen to pick up my packet at the expo so it was easier just to drive up the day before, go to the expo, and spend the night, run the race and drive home the following day. I found a Hilton Garden Inn near the finish line and by the MARTA station and booked a room there. Side note: parking was $30/night and there were cheaper garages the next block over, I’d do more research in the future because $30 is crazy.
I drove up, checked into the hotel and decided to get some lunch at a noodle place near Georgia Tech. From there it was only supposed to be a 30 minute walk to packet pick up – it was a 30 minute sweat fest. It was hot, sunny, and my Jacks were not as broken in as I’d thought they were. By the time I’d marched my way to the Georgia World Congress Center and realized the expo was at the building furthest from anything, my feet were decidedly unhappy with me.
I got my packet and realized I must have thought this was a longer race and given them a half marathon proof of time. They had corrals all the way back to Z and I was in W and my corral didn’t start until 0900, when it would definitely be hot and there was a red alert in effect for race day. I already hadn’t planned on running this for time but now I knew I’d need to be more conservative than I’d planned.
I limped my way back to the hotel where I changed shoes and did some recon on the MARTA route which conveniently led me to the Lenox Square mall where I did some shopping before heading back to Midtown for dinner and an early bedtime.
I got up early as usual, which was good since the MARTA was very crowded. I got to the start about an hour and a half early and had time to eat a little breakfast and sit in the shade while watching my corral. Most people were wearing some variation of red, white, and blue and I saw a few people dressed up as characters from American history. We started promptly at nine and immediately, people were walking.
Again, I wasn’t out to break any landslide records or even PR, but it would have been nice if they’d reminded people to walk right and run left because the entire 6.2 miles was just people walking four and five abreast all over the road. It was super annoying.
There was a lot of beer and snacks offered on the course, but it was so hot that I didn’t want to eat or drink anything that might make me sick. I stopped at all the aid stations for water and walked mostly up the biggest hill at mile 3.5 because I felt like I was starting to overheat a bit, plus the people around me were slowing to an even slower walk and I was frustrating trying to run around them. I finished up around wave J, which is probably about where I would have been had I submitted a correct proof of time. At the same time, I know I put what race I was submitting included distance so I don’t know why it didn’t just go by my average pace and not total time.
Once past mile 5 it was a lot better, but right before the finish everyone just completely stopped as far as I could see. I heard that someone may have fainted at the finish line and they were trying to aid them, but everything was so backed up by that point it was insane. Eventually we made it through at a walk and I collected my t-shirt and some water and a snack box and navigated my way back to the hotel. I thanked the Ghost of Christian Past again for booking a hotel by the finish line because I was able to shower and change before checkout time which is always a huge mood booster in my book and I was thankful not to have to ride MARTA back anywhere while hot, sweaty, and smelly.
Also, I didn’t get any safety pins with my packet. Fortunately there was one in my travel kit and I used some thread to see the other side onto my singlet.
Overall, it was an okay race. It wasn’t as much fun as Disney races and I think that had a lot to do with the heat, being in the wrong corral, and just complete lack of runner courtesy and them not reminding runners of it throughout the course. I finished in 1:10, and 20,740 out of a total of 55,413 runners who finished yesterday. That is probably my slowest 10K time ever, and still middle of the pack if that says anything about the heat and amount of walkers yesterday.
I may give it another chance next year when the weather will likely be better, but it’s not at the top of my list of races I want to do.