Peachtree Road Race 2014

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I don’t know that I have a “Bucket List,” but the Peachtree Road Race has always been something that daunted me.  First, because I really don’t like to run.  I run so I can eat and drink what I want.  Secondly, because I’ve generally been unfit since my 20’s.  I blame cable TV and the internet.  Thirdly, 6.2 miles?  Ouch.  Half that let’s me eat all the Mexican food I want without gaining weight.  And fourthly, there’s the observed hassle of going downtown amid many thousands of people weighed against a very formidable foe: sleeping in on a holiday.

I’m in better shape now, and after completing my first 5k last fall, it sort of dawned on me that if I were to attempt doing this thing, now was the time.  And get the “finishers-only” T-shirt of what is now the world’s largest 10k race.

In the past, getting into the race has been a problem for many – lotteries, etc.  They now accept up to 60,000 (and rumored 65,000), and I got in, probably because I had a formal finish time for the 5k.

Packet pickup was was at the Georgia World Congress Center.  In the future, I’ll pay the extra fee to have it mailed.  The suggested route to the discounted parking deck was re-routed, and, well, traffic.  I’ll leave it at that.

Once there, things went smoothly, with neatly organized booths for quick pickup.

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But this was more than just a pickup – it’s a Fitness Expo.  As such, there were plenty of vendors and sponsors.

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Mahatma, which I enjoy but wouldn’t expect at a fitness expo, had a wheel to spin for prizes.  (spin) Free yellow rice.  Which beats a goofy eraser my daughter won.  I like freebies, and I had already collected a free T-shirt from some other group that wanted my email.  I’ll remember who they are when they start emailing me, I guess. 

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My regret is below.  “I run so I can eat Waffle House” is a really funny shirt.  They were an official sponsor, and the prize bag at the end of the race included a coupon for a free waffle.  Plus the one a friend gave me.  Score!

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The local newspaper was a sponsor as well.  They seemingly have a tent/table  at every expo and festival event around town, no doubt adding one subscriber per week.

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There were also plenty of free sample snacks and sports drinks, as well as runner “gear,” mostly targeting females for style and color coordination.  That’s just a prelude, and it’s not like the night before Christmas.

So, I wake up at 5:40 a.m., my wave begins at 8:14, and I’m not exactly enthused about getting up.  Again, I don’t really enjoy running.  I enjoy sleeping more.  But...

I’m at the northernmost MARTA train station by 6:30.  There was some mention of trains leaving every 10 minutes, which wasn’t observable.  I’m not sure how long we waited at the station, but we were pretty full of runners, bewildered but friendly Jehovah’s Witness convention goers (who weren’t in recruiting mode yet), and one poor soul with his roller bag headed for the airport.  More piled in at each stop on the way to Lenox Station.

From that point it was close to a mile of walking until I reached Wave K.  Should an organizer be reading this, please note that the pedestal stands for the speakers should be barricaded lest people walking amid a throng trip over them.   I managed not to break my face or my wrists from the fall, thank you very much.  Safety first.  Avoid lawsuits.

The runners are divided into waves, this year A-Y, and move in packs herded by several of the multitude of volunteers.   We started exactly on time, which is pretty amazing in managing a crowd shy of 60,000. 

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The race bib includes a strip that activates a timer when you cross the start line.  And then, I walked... because there’s all these people, you see.  For 200 yards or so, my fast walk was just as suited as all the eager runners, each hopping in tiny strides.  Did I mention I don’t like running?  It was a nice way to begin.

The waves are roughly seeded by ability.  Fast runners go early, so they don’t have to dodge slow people.  Slow people start late, so they don’t have to worry about fast people bumping into them.  I was roughly in the middle, based on my one official time of the one race I had run.  That was a 5k race.  This was 10k.  Or, a 6.2 mile route that frustrates me even when driving.

When I run, there’s about 1 time out of 6 when I have a good measure of endurance.   I haven’t figured out the magic formula yet.  But, environmental factors certainly help.  With our wave starting off at a wonderfully cool 65o, and the ample water stations and misters/sprayers along the route, I’m fairly certain that I perform much better when I’m cool.   To top it off, a cool breeze often graced the runners.  It was a perfect morning.

Though all the informational emails and talking with others, I knew what to expect.  The first mile is roughly flat before going downhill over the next two.  The fourth mile is Cardiac Hill, so noted because it’s a relatively steep incline that passes by Piedmont Hospital.  Afterwards, it’s a mile with some flat and some uphill, and the final mile relatively flat.  

My game plan was to walk up the 2 observed hills and otherwise run until my heart told me I needed to walk for a minute.  By benefit of the previously mentioned weather, or perhaps the Mexican dinner I enjoyed the night before, or not drinking my 2 Coke Zeros the day before, it was a good running outing for me (not to be confused with enjoying it).  I walked during the length of each water station, and otherwise ran.  Eh, except for a portion of Cardiac Hill, along which I at least walked faster than others (and there were many).

When you’re trying not to run into other people, or get trapped behind other people, you don’t pay much attention to the scenery. But I knew a blog was coming, so I tried to pay attention where I could.

  • Band stages – maybe 5?  With different types of music, and heard only briefly when running by.  But I’m sure these were enjoyed by the many folks who lined the street encouraging the runners.
  • Free beer – Really, dude?  Thanks for holding the can out, but I don’t take drinks from strangers, and... I can’t imagine running with beer.
  • One couple with signs – “I just want to cross the street” and “Worst Parade Ever!”  There  were others, but I don’t remember the signs.  Many of them were for particular runners or groups.
  • Many people essentially tailgated, with food, lawn chairs and friends gathered around.  And drinks.
  • Water stations – Hey, I get to be one of those running litterbugs that throws a cup on the ground!  If I didn’t see a trash can, I at least tried to dump mine where it wouldn’t splash the feet of the many volunteers.
  • Taking water from volunteers seems to make them very happy.  Especially those toward the end of the table who see runners routinely take them from volunteers further up the line.  My rule:  drink one, splash a second on my head.  Everyone’s happy.
  • One Episcopal Priest – or someone dressed as one – flicking holy water out of a bowl at runners as they went by.
  • As far as the area, I was oblivious to all of them... except the hospital.  And I was surprised when I crossed over I-85.  It was a sort of “Hmm.  I’m going to actually finish this” moment.  Otherwise, it’s just a road.
  • Turning onto 10th Street, I knew the finish wasn’t too far, but I didn’t know if it was on the street or after a turn into Piedmont Park.  But I didn’t want to walk that close to the finish, what with the gazillions of people standing along the street.  When I could finally make out where the finish line was, I surprised myself by being able to spring (relatively speaking) the final 200 yards.

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Go me.  And, wow, I need to tan the top of my head. 

Here’s the entrance to the park, which queues to the coveted T-shirt pickup lanes.  That’s a bunch of people.

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The results:

Time:  1 Hour, 5 minutes.  That’s 10 minutes shorter than my goal, which had planned for a lot more walking up hills, and it’s also 2 minutes faster than my only 10k attempt, which was on a treadmill.  (“only” = I don’t like running).

Place:  21,106 of 57,556, per the Peachtree site’s unofficial results.  Or...  20,996 by the results on AJC.  I’ll have to favor the liberal bias, then.  Maybe there’s some hanging digital chads somewhere.

Of Men:  13,679 of 28,724.  Top 50%.  I’ll take that, but... it’s not like I’m a great runner.  I think there’s a lot of people who run/walk just to get out and get a T-shirt.

The view from the hill, looking down at the field:

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I had no intention of doing this again, but I probably will because... I can*, and I didn’t embarrass myself.  And... to get next year’s T-shirt, of course.   (But a size smaller as the XL’s are exceptionally large).  

*hoping for a cool July 4th, 2015

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