The 2009 Peachtree was my first ever race. I had started running in 9th grade, at age 14, so that I could improve my grade for the timed mile test in gym class (nerd). After the semester ended in December, I kept running so that I might be able to do the Peachtree in July with my older sister. It’s a 10k race, which was crazy to me at the time because I had never run more than a mile or so continuously. I had to stay consistent with running so that I would be able to complete the whole 6.2 miles.
This year I flew down to Atlanta from Philly on Saturday, July 2 with my boyfriend. My mom picked us up from the airport and drove us straight to the hospital to see my sister, brother-in-law, and my newborn nephew! I didn’t get to meet my first nephew until he was about two months old, but I got to hold my second nephew when he was just 33 hours old. He is so adorable and meeting him was so special!
We went to the expo at the Georgia World Congress Center on Sunday, July 3 to pick up my bib. I was in wave B this year, which I admit disappointed me a little. The last two times I ran Peachtree in 2013 and 2014 I was in wave A, and my time in 2014 should have qualified me for wave A again this year. However, I got into the race this year because I deferred my 2015 entry, so I thought maybe they didn’t have enough space in wave A by the time I emailed. Whatever the reason, wave B ended up being totally fine. Just my pride getting in the way!
And of course, we’d be remiss to go to Atlanta and not make it to The Flying Biscuit Cafe.
On Monday morning, July 4, my mom, dad (who was also running the race), boyfriend, and I woke up at 4:45 AM to make it to the start line early. Side note, I’m so thankful to have people who care about me enough to wake up at 4:45😉
My mom and boyfriend dropped me and my dad off at a road barricade about half a mile from the start line at 6:20 AM. We made our way to the start with a hoard of other runners. My dad was in wave X, so he and I split up once reaching the start area.
It was REALLY nice to get there early because it wasn’t crowded yet. I was able to use the port-a-potties twice without waiting in line while they were still relatively clean, and I could jog around to warm up without dodging too many people. By 7:15, the start area was packed and I was glad I had gotten there so early.
As a giant American flag billowed overhead, someone sang the National Anthem. Afterwords, a huge Air Force jet flew by overhead! This was the first year that had happened and to me, it was the most incredible part of the race. The jet was so low to the ground (even closer than the helicopters flying overhead). I wish I’d taken a video but I had no idea it would happen!
My wave started at 7:35. Immediately after starting I thought… this feels hard.
My training leading up to this race was sporadic. I felt like I was in great shape for the Broad Street Run, but two weeks after it, I noticed a large, somewhat painful lump on top of my left food. I was extremely concerned and took about 2.5 weeks off before going to the see a sports medicine doctor. She thought it was probably an inflamed tendon or ganglion cyst and told me to take one more week off running, ice 2-3 times per day, and then try going for a short run. I did that, and things seemed to go back to normal. I’m still not sure exactly what was wrong, but I’m glad it was not a stress fracture or another serious injury!
I went about 24 days without running between mid-May and early June and ran just 32 miles for the entire month of June. However, I did lots of cross training during this time. I went to 6 Flywheel classes in June, which were HARD (in the best way). I also did some pilates, barre, and yoga classes. So by the time the race came around, I felt like I was in reasonably good fitness shape, but not necessarily good running shape.
In addition to not being in tip-top shape, the day of the race was extremely hot. It was 77 degrees with 83% humidity and not a cloud in the sky at 7:35 AM. Also, the black asphalt of the road absorbed even more heat, making it feel even hotter on the course. Ugh. The race started off at a yellow warning flag, meaning “less than ideal conditions.”
So anyway – start of the race, I thought “this feels hard” and worried I wouldn’t have a good race. I decided to just run by feel and not look at my watch. This ensured I didn’t feel disappointed if my pace was slow.
The race course itself was relatively unremarkable to me as, like I said, this was the 6th time I had run it. My favorite parts are the holy water mister at the Cathedral of St. Philip, the patients at Piedmont Hospital cheering for runners on Cardiac Hill, and the single turn onto 10th Street where the crowd of spectators becomes very dense.
The first half of the race is mostly downhill, which is great; but what goes down must come up, and the uphill second half of the race can feel pretty miserable. This showed very clearly in my pace:
- First half of the race: Average pace 7:57 min/mile and heart rate about 160 bpm
- Second half of the race: Average pace 8:47 min/mile and heart rate about 190 bpm
I can’t believe I managed to run for over 3 miles with a heart rate around 190 bpm. I mean, I can easily believe my heart rate was this high, because breathing was very difficult and my legs felt like lead. But I can’t believe I managed to hold on and not walk (or pass out).
Final time: 51:57 (average 8:22 min/mile pace)
I was shocked by how fast I finished – not that this time was particularly fast (I ran 47:20 in 2013 and 47:10 in 2014), but for terrible heat conditions and minimal training, I was ecstatic with this time. With how terrible my legs had felt during the race, I was sure I was running a 12 minute per mile pace!
After the race, I found my mom and boyfriend and greedily chugged water while sprawled out in the shade with an ice cold towel wrapped around my neck. After about 10 minutes of recovering, I checked my watch and realized that, at 8:40, my dad wouldn’t even be starting the race for another 25 minutes!
Needless to say, we waited in the finish area at Piedmont Park a long time. The wait wasn’t terrible because we had plenty of free food and drinks and had also found a shaded bench next to a nearby lake. We were able to take lots of pictures and talk about the race.
However, we were very worried about my dad. After I finished, the warning condition was raised to a red warning flag, meaning “potentially dangerous conditions” (and one step away from the race being cancelled). Sirens continuously blared as medics tried to make their way to people who had passed out at the finish line. My dad runs consistently and is reasonably fit, but he is 66-years-old and struggles in the heat. I texted him to make sure he would go slow and drink plenty of water.
He had estimated he’d finish in about 75 minutes, but he ended up taking almost 90 (final time 1 hour 27 minutes). He looked beat when we found him; my mom was afraid he was going to pass out and insisted he sit in the shade and drink a Powerade before walking back to the car, which was parked nearly a mile away. Thankfully we all made it back without issue.
We showered, went out to lunch for burgers and beer (does a better post-race meal exist?), and visited with my nephews for a cookout and small fireworks before heading back to the hotel for a quick swim and an early bedtime. We didn’t go see a fireworks show, but this 4th of July still felt pretty perfect.
Until next race!