Ever since I moved to Georgia back in 2001, folks ask me, “So, have you run the AJC Peachtree Road Race?” as soon as they hear I am a runner. Actually, I prefer to compete in 5k races, not 10k races, so the race never interested me. But so many people kept insisting I run this race. So I decided to give it a try. After all, a college coach once told me that my form and style were better suited for 10 kilometer races.
1) Join the Atlanta Track Club. Part of the uncertainty for first time runners is hoping you get selected in the lottery. That’s right, not everyone who wants to run gets to run. A fellow runner told me that joining the Atlanta Track Club can help you get in the Peachtree Road Race, so you don’t have to worry about getting picked in the lottery.
2) Go to the Runners Expo, at least once. The Peachtree Health and Fitness Expo is held at the Georgia World Congress Center, July 2 and July 3. There are lots of freebies, food and drink samples, shopping for running products, information on other races, details on dieting, wheels to spin for prizes. I took my family and they enjoyed it. “It’s like Halloween for runners,” said my seven-year-old daughter.
3) Take MARTA whenever you can. Getting to the Georgia World Congress building was a nightmare, thanks to conventions, 4th of July traffic, a crowded downtown Atlanta. And construction on the Andrew Young International Blvd. made it an hour in the car from just the interstate exit! Check Atlanta traffic before you go. So take advantage of the city’s buses and railways. They worked very well, even on race day.
4) Get there very early. Waking up at 4am wasn’t much fun, but it was worth it, as I found a good parking spot at the MARTA station and had plenty of time to make it to my spot. Others who cut it close at the end looked more stressed. You can always take a post-race nap later.
5) Take advantage of available bathrooms. There are lots of port-a-potties provided for the race. Sure the lines look long, but don’t be deceived. They move fast.
6) Slow runners go to the right. Since I rarely run 10k races, and had only been training for two months, so I decided to stay on the right. I found myself weaving around a lot of folks who had given up and decided to walk, even from the higher groups. If you plan on running the whole way, just stick to the left. Another fellow runner told me his GPS showed he ran 6.5 miles (not 6.2) just from going from one side to the other to get past runners. Get with a group with a good pace, and stick with them.
7) Try hard to qualify with a good time. You’ll find out that fast runners get good start waves, in the A, B and C groups. Groups closer to “Z” may be starting an hour-and-a-half later. It’s obviously a lot warmer later in the day, so try and get in a Peachtree qualifier in the Fall of 2014 or Spring of 2015, and run your best at those.
8) If you need water, freeze it the night before. The only critique I had of the event is that the bottled water at the finish is not cold. So bring your own water, which is a must for a race. Freeze it in recyclable bottles the night before, and leave the top off so that it doesn’t expand and do damage to your bottle. Ice water may last. Cold water won’t last in July in Georgia.
9) Stay for the post-race party. There are a lot of good giveaways, thanks to Publix (bagels and bananas), Coca-Cola, Mellow Mushroom (pizza), PNC Bank (flip-flops), Delta (towels), Bluebell (ice cream bars), and more. Try not to leave until you’ve tried this place.
10) Be prepared for a long hike afterwards to MARTA. Unless you are in a big hurry, wait until you are good and rested before making the trek back to Midtown MARTA station. It is mostly uphill. But you didn’t run this race to avoid exercise, right?