Back in 2010, Atlanta magazine editors made a list of 67 Things Every Atlantan Must Do. (The latest edition, 50 Things, came out in April.) Including the Peachtree Road Race was a no-brainer and didn’t require much embellishment: “On July 4,” we wrote, “run the Peachtree Road Race, the world’s largest 10K.”
And yet every year I run it, I’m filled with all sorts of warm and fuzzies about Atlanta and being an Atlantan—which, if you’ve ever attended a pro sports game when we’re playing Boston or Chicago or New York, you know can be a complicated emotion to pinpoint. Here are ten reasons the city’s greatest athletic tradition is one in which we can all partake:
There’s no better snapshot of our region. Young and old, OTP and ITP, all races and political persuasions and fitness levels are represented—from elite athletes to pub-crawling hashers (“Water bad! Beer good!”) to the rest of us, wheezing our way up Cardiac Hill.
But we’re all just proud to be Americans … in the least jingoistic way. Patriotic get-ups range from the awesomely cheesy (these dudes) to the plain awesome (this guy), but participants at Thursday’s event will hail from twenty-five countries. Kenyans have historically dominated, holding eight of the ten fastest-ever times in both the men’s and women’s columns and receiving no less enthusiastic crowd support for kicking our native tails.
For many, it’s a family affair. I run with my sister. My friend walks each year with her parents. This amazing husband and wife will run together joined by a bandana.
Watching can be as much of a production as running. Southerners will turn anything into a tailgate party.
You come to love and hate-love stretches of the course. My favorite is the long, shady downhill past the ritzy condos near Lindbergh Drive (oh hey, Elton John). More challenging is the home stretch on Tenth to Piedmont Park, which is more “stretch” than “home.”
The distractions put pep in your step. If you can run a 5K on a normal day, you can probably handle the Peachtree thanks to live music, water hoses, and 150,000 fans cheering you on. Patients of the Shepherd Center, which hosts the race’s wheelchair division, line up outside the hospital each year and cure a thousand side stitches.
You get a nifty shirt. Never mind that last year’s vanilla color was oddly, and unflatteringly, the exact hue of my skin. It’s always exciting to get your first glimpse of the new design, usually from runners who were faster than you and are sauntering home along the sidelines.
There’s glory in grossness. July in Atlanta is really humid, which means Piedmont Park is packed with 60,000 stinky, slippery humans letting it all hang out. Thank goodness MARTA has plastic seats.
That beer/margarita/Bloody Mary never tasted so good. Half the reason I run is so I can lie by the pool afterward in an exhausted stupor, post-race beverage in hand.
You couldn’t be anywhere else. The date, the size, the heat, and of course the route—down Atlanta’s most iconic artery, past Lenox Square, St. Philip’s Cathedral, Piedmont Hospital, and the High Museum, ending in Piedmont Park—add up to an experience you simply cannot replicate in any other place.