I ran my 5th Peachtree Road Race on this year’s 4th of July!
The Peachtree is my favorite race to do year after year. The atmosphere is very unique. It’s the largest 10k race in the entire country, typically hosts an elite field of runners from around the world, and this year hosted the U.S. 10km Road Championships. (It even has its own How Stuff Works article!) The race started in 1970, so it’s also been around a long time. Despite the world class nature of the race, 92 percent of the runners are from Georgia.
I love things you can only get in one place (such family-owned businesses or local cuisine), and the Peachtree fits that bill. Despite being a world class race, it’s so distinctly Atlanta you won’t find anything like it anywhere else.
My mom dropped me off on Peachtree Road the morning of the race about ¾ of a mile north of the start where the road closure began. It was 6:30am and still a little bit dark out. The street was already lined with runners walking and jogging to the start.
I warmed up about a mile and did some strides right before the race. It was really exciting to listen to the announcer profile the elite USA runners – Amy Hastings, Desiree Linden, etc. I tried to stand on my tip toes to catch a glimpse, but no luck. The elite women started at 7:16, the elite men at 7:29, and the rest of the field (seeded, sub seeded, and my corral, A) at 7:30 on the nose.
Right at the start line; being in “A” corral is the best
GIANT American flag at the start
The race started how it always does – crowded. There’s really no point trying to weave because you’d basically have to shove people out of the way.
I didn’t listen to music and decided not to look at my watch. I just wanted to run by feel and enjoy the day.
Something really scary happened less than a half mile into the race. A man next to me tripped on something, flew through the air, and face planted. It looked so painful. I considered stopping, but he got up almost immediately, looking shocked but not seriously hurt. I hope he was okay.
The race course stays on Peachtree almost the entire time, meandering through Atlanta. At mile 2 I made sure to get sprinkled with holy water by Dean Sam Candler from St. Philip’s Cathedral (race tradition!). Mile 3 featured a huge downhill that I took full advantage of, knowing the brutal uphills would come later. In fact, I’d find out later that mile 3 was a 6:59.7 mile – pretty sure that’s my only ever sub-7 mile in a 10k ;)
Sure enough, the uphill that started just before mile 3 was a monster. They call it Cardiac Hill because Piedmont Hospital sits at the top. The saying goes it’s okay if you have a heart attack when you get to the top because the hospital is right there.
The hills from miles 3-5 are easily the toughest part of the race. They arrive just when you’d appreciate a break. I powered up Cardiac Hill the best I could, trying to hang on to others while also not pushing too hard, as there’s another big hill between miles 4 and 5. Mile 4 was my slowest, my only 8 minute mile, although I didn’t know it at the time as I’d made good on my decision not to look at my watch.
Though I do this race year after year, I’m never positive where exactly I am on the course. Once I crossed over 14th street, I seemed to remember a turn coming up (the only real turn of the course) but I couldn’t remember how many streets away it was. It finally came to me when I got to 12th street and had a flashback of a turn onto 10th Avenue. I rounded the curve as close to the inside as I could get and tried to speed up a little.
At this point I knew I was very close to the finish so I decided to look at my watch to just see about what my time would be and whether I should bother trying for a final sprint. When I glanced down, I was floored to see 43:xx. I couldn’t believe I had been running that fast! I said to the people next to me (out loud, caught up in the excitement), “I’m going to set a Peachtree PR!” and took off.
I thought the finish was about a quarter mile away, but it turned out to be a little more than half a mile. I wasn’t sure exactly when the finish was coming, but when I saw it ahead, at the bottom of a downhill, I gave all I had left. (My watch later showed the last .33 mile at 6:17 pace, which isn’t bad considering my mile PR is 6:16) I stopped my watch at 47:12 – not quite the huge PR I was expecting, but a PR nonetheless (last year was 47:20).
was surprised then later to see in the official results that my net time read as 47:26 (not a Peachtree PR). I didn’t ever pause my watch, and even if I had started it a few seconds late (which I don’t think I did) I feel like it still should have been under 47:20. It’s fixed!! Now it says 47:10. That sounds more accurate. So a 10 second PR for me :)
Last year I trained very, very specifically for this race. I followed a plan I made with the Runners World smart coach program. I did weekly speed workouts and long runs. I didn’t take a break even on vacation, and once I ran the Peachtree course backwards and forwards for my long run. I came to Atlanta 2 days before the race so I wouldn’t be traveling the day before the race. I had a specific time goal, ideas of how I wanted to pace myself, and a crafted playlist.
This year was way more relaxed. I’ve been running less, running slower, and not doing many long runs or speed work. I flew into Atlanta from Philly the day before the race. I didn’t make a goal time or anything. I didn’t even look at my watch – very notable for me, haha. I went in to have fun. And I did have fun! And I ran even better than last year. This year was much cooler and less humid (65 degrees at the start!) which probably helped.
After the race I met up with my mom and grabbed some free food (ice cream sandwiches are my favorite!).
Then, by chance, we were walking near the elite tent. And I saw Lauren Fleshman. In the flesh (haha). I was so star struck. I really wanted a picture with her. I thrust my melting ice cream sandwich into my mom’s hand and jogged up closer to Lauren, keeping my distance but trying to make eye contact. She didn’t see me though and started walking back to the elites-only area. I said her name, but I have a pretty quiet voice and she didn’t hear me. I didn’t want to be creepy and chase her down, so I just let her go. Oh well. I was like three feet away from her! That counts for something.
My mom and I stayed there for a few minutes, and I saw Desiree Lindon also! (She was on the USA Olympic marathon team in 2012, along with Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan). I wanted a picture with her also, but she was talking to someone and I didn’t want to bother her. It was neat even just to see the elites though!
We headed back to watch some of the other finishers, specifically to look for Meb, who started the race in last place, trying to pass as many people as possible in order to raise money for charity, with the goal of passing 22,500 runners (more info here). It took awhile (turns out he didn’t start until 9:15, 10 minutes after the last wave took off) but finally we heard the crowd screaming and knew it had to be him. He was on the other side of the street though and was literally a blur. Still fun to catch a glimpse!
Waiting for Meb…
There he blows!
Headed back my sister’s after the race to shower, then ate lunch at The Flying Biscuit Cafe, and finally back to my sister’s again for a nap. I met up with some friends from high school at Georgia Tech later on in the evening for some 4th of July festivities. It was the perfect ending to the day.
Well earned post-race meal
Also, last year was the first time I ran the race with a Garmin, and it was so cool (or maybe I’m just a data geek) to use the “compare” feature!
Didn’t run the tangents quite as well this year, but I thought it was interesting that the general trend of slowing down/speeding up stayed the same even though I looked at my watch last year and didn’t this year. Also, it’s kind of funny how it says mile 3 was a 6:60 mile – going into the actual activity file it says 6:59.7.
Hope you had a a great 4th of July! :)