After running virtually in 2020, the Peachtree Road Race returns in 2021 to Atlanta, Georgia, for the 52nd running, although it will be spread out over two days. Sixty thousand are expected to participate, and that many more will watch the annual 10K road race. Details are still being ironed out on Covid-19 safety measures.
According to the Atlanta Track Club, " On July 4, 1970, 150 runners gathered at the old Sears parking lot on the corner of Peachtree and Roswell Road. Of those runners, 110 finished. The group, now known as the "Original 110," ran 6.2 miles through Atlanta to Central City Park in what would go down in history as the inaugural Peachtree Road Race."
Few people know this, but I was very nearly one of the original runners. I was still in high school, and a member of the Shamrock High School cross country team when I saw a tiny ad in the sports section of the Atlanta Journal advertising the race. To register, you had to get down to Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia, and find the office of Tim Singleton. At the time, I was working a summer job about ten miles from home, so my commute involved taking a bus downtown and transferring to another to get to work.
I thought it would be a trivial thing to swing by the Georgia State campus and register for the race. Unfortunately, I had no plan on how to accomplish this task, and when I saw how large the campus was, with only a half-hour to catch my bus, I gave up.
It was eight years later, in 1978, when I finally ran my first of twenty-five Peachtree Road Races. That one had a massive crowd of about 6,000 runners, 10% of today's gathering. I finished in the top few hundred with a time of 36:15, which is still my personal record for the distance. Years later, when I ran my last one in 2007, I actually walked it. I was still qualified to get into Time Group 1 but wasn't in shape for a good time, so I decided to take my camera and walk it from the back.
For the last forty-plus years, the race has begun at Lenox Square in Atlanta, Georgia, and run down Peachtree Street to Piedmont Park. Both the start and finish were selected to handle the massive crowds this race attracts every year from all over the world.
Running in the race was always a significant event. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world. Despite the vast number of runners, you can set your own pace after about the half-mile mark with a little patience. Walking it was a unique experience as it allowed me to be both a participant and an observer.
Registration for the 52nd running of the race is now closed, but there is still a way to participate. If you are willing to donate $200 to benefit Kilometer Kids, you will be entered into a lottery for extra spots in the race. The race this year will be spread over two days, Saturday, July 3, and Sunday, July 4.
If you have never seen the race, I encourage you to get down and watch. Despite the massive number of people watching, there are still places along the route where you can be socially distant. The middle miles along the residential areas of Peachtree Street are the best locations. These are also the most likely to have shade. Despite the early start, the body heat of 60,000 runners and the morning sun shining up Peachtree Street creates significant heat. Get there early to watch the Wheelchair Athletes go by.
It may be too late for you to get ready for this year's race, but if you are a runner or walker in Atlanta, Georgia, I encourage you to prepare for and enter the race next year. I guarantee there is nothing quite like it.