With about 60,000 runners, the Peachtree Road Race is now one of the largest 10K races in the world. Organized by the Atlanta Track Club and held on U.S. Independence Day each year, the first race in 1970 included only 110 runners and was won by former Florida Track Club member and U.S. Olympian Jeff Galloway. In its 50th year, the race includes about 15,000 spectators lined along the course and draws together the Atlanta community, out-of-towners and an international field of elite runners. I’m sharing a recap of my experience running my first Peachtree Road Race along with training, travel and planning tips if you are interested in running this race next.
PEACHTREE ROAD RACE DETAILS
DATE: July 4th each year
LOCATION: Atlanta, Georgia
DISTANCE: 10 kilometers (6.2 miles)
COURSE: Road, start by Lenox Square, runs mostly straight with some slight curves along Peachtree Road with a decline down in the first half, then an incline up, with the largest climb of the race up Cardiac Hill, and the last half of the course includes some smaller up and down elevation changes, with one 45 degree left turn on 10th St before finishing by Piedmont Park.
REGISTRATION: Lottery, began in mid-March with notice of acceptance or rejection in April (exception is automatic acceptance for Atlanta Track Club members).
START WAVES: Qualifying Standards, placement based on your projected 10k finish time calculated from a finish time from a previous race of any distance that you can submit during registration. For information on registration, wave standards and placement, visit atlantatrackclub.org/participant-information-start.
HIGHLIGHTS THIS YEAR
Since it was the 50th anniversary of the race, there was extra prize money on the line for elite runners as incentives for placing and breaking course records. There were some notable names, including American elite women Emily Sisson and Jennifer Rhines and elite men Tyler Pennel and Abdi Abdirahman. Male Kenyan runner Rhonex Kipruto ran 27:01, the fastest 10K finish time on United States soil and as a course record at Peachtree this year (his personal best is 26:46, 2nd fastest time in the world). Female Kenyan runner Brigid Kosgei set a new course record in the elite women’s division in a neck-and-neck finish with Agnes Tirop, finishing in 30:22. Male and female wheelchair division race finish time records were broken too. At the expo, there were also special walls, photo ops and gear for all runners to commemorate the 50th year.
Rhonex Kipruto finishing first overall in the men’s division race. Video by Beatrice Torres.
Brigid Kosgei and Agnes Tirop in a foot race for the women’s division win. Photo by Beatrice Torres.
HOW I RAN
After a great performance at the Philadelphia Half Marathon last year, I had to drop out or defer from a few races this past Spring due to tendontis above my knee that I developed after the race. Upon full recovery, I was able to get in some solid weeks of training with Team Florida Track Club, but feel that I could have used more time to prep for the demands of Peachtree. I was more concerned with returning to training without re-injury. I included a 5K race in late May as a tune-up race. Then about one week before the race, I developed the same hamstring tendon issue that caused me to miss 2 months of running prior to the Philadelphia Half. I took two days completely off, included all kinds of mobility work and ran my last runs slow and easy prior to the race. I was still able to run Peachtree without stopping, but just at a slower pace than expected finishing in 43:09 (~6:57/mi) as the tightness affected my stride and slowed me down. However, it was a fun race and I’ll certainly be back to give this course my full effort in better shape.
- RUN IN THE HEAT: If living in a warmer area, it can help to acclimate to race weather conditions.
- PREPARE FOR HILLS: Including some easy runs and long runs on a hilly route and hill repeats can help.
- INCREASE CARBS: According to a recent study, running in the heat can increase carb intake needs.
- HYDRATE: Adequate water and electrolyte intake through food or drink before, during and after runs.
- RUN BY FEEL: Effort may feel harder, pace may slow and breaks in warmer conditions can be beneficial.
The graphic below from Team Florida Track Club shows how running can be affected and how someone may go about setting expectations at various temperatures:
- SUBMIT YOUR FASTEST PREVIOUS RACE TIME: To qualify for one of the waves with an earlier start time and run in lower temperatures. Elite, seeded and A wave runners started by 7 AM with temperatures in the mid 70s and other waves in much larger groups started about every 5 minutes after as temperatures rose to the mid 80s °F later on in the morning. If you forget to submit a previous race during online registration, you’ll be placed into one of the later start waves so don’t forget to submit one.
- REGISTER AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE: The registration period was about two weeks long before the lottery was held and participants were randomly accepted or rejected. According to the Atlanta Track Club, everyone has a fair shot in the lottery regardless of day and time of registration and your qualifying time is only taken into account for wave placement after the lottery if you are accepted.
I was fortunate to live just about a 4 hour drive away from home. I stopped by the expo in downtown at the Atlanta Convention Center the day before the race in early afternoon to avoid larger crowds and traffic later in the day. I bought a parking permit for the main yellow lot across the street from the Atlanta Convention Center in advance online to save some money and time.
- BOOK A HOTEL BY THE START LINE: Better to be within walking distance to the start line so you can sleep in later and not stress about joining the crowds of people likely taking the MARTA to get from further down the road to the start area. I booked early, once I was accepted into the race, to save on money and time later on.
- YOU BUY MARTA PASSES AT EXPO: If you’re staying by the start line, you’ll want a one way ticket back for you and a round trip or multiple stop ticket for any of your friends or family members watching you race to avoid having to walk the 6.2 miles back or to take a ride share back along a busier road since the whole course along Peachtree Road will be closed to traffic most of the morning.
- TRAVEL WITH SOMEONE ELSE YOU KNOW: For safety reasons, it can be beneficial to attend the race with a friend, significant other or family member rather than alone. Plan communication, proximity and meet up sites well to avoid getting lost, because it is a large race and city.
- DON’T TRY ANYTHING NEW ON RACE DAY THAT YOU DIDN’T PRACTICE WITH: Everyone’s food preferences and needs varies, especially during training and prior to and during a race, and should not change too much for any race. It could increase the chance of something going wrong, especially combined with race day nerves, that can negatively impact your performance. Common tips are to eat familiar foods that you ate during training runs, especially long runs or race-specific runs, and that you found easy for you to digest to carry you through the run feeling well.
- PACK YOUR FOOD FOR THE TRIP AND FIND FOOD SPOTS AND STORES IN THE AREA: Saves money and you’re able to conveniently eat the foods that you practiced with during your travel to Atlanta. Alternatively, you can find food shops or stores at the airport or stop along the way for food if you drive. Wherever I travel for a race, I like to find a large supermarket with many quick grab-and-go options either local or a Whole Foods Market where others I travel with and I can find our food preferences and also buy additional snack or hygiene items if forgotten. There is a Whole Foods Market on Peachtree Road within walking distances from hotels near the start line and in other areas in Atlanta.
- YOU DON’T NEED TO CARB LOAD AND MAY NOT NEED TO FUEL DURING THE RACE: For a 10k, you don’t need to load up on carbohydrates to store energy unlike common recommendations for longer races like a marathon. In regards to fueling during the race, it will depend on how fast you are. Speedy runners who expect to cover the distance in under 40 minutes don’t need to worry about taking in fuel, but if you typically run between 45-60 minutes oral longer to complete 10 kilometers, you might consider taking in fuel during the race.
- POST RACE FOOD OPTIONS AT THE FINISH ARE GREAT: After crossing the finish line, there is a big post-race gathering in Piedmont Park where you are given your medal, water, clip bars and other refreshments. After cooling off there, you can head over to the Partner Village, where there was tons of catered food options this year: all varieties of bagels, muffins, cookies and sandwiches, including vegetarian/vegan options like hummus wraps, and drinks like coffee and Smart Water. In the Partner Village, there were also tents with fans and mist machines to stay cool, mats and foam rollers and access to the side of the course to watch and cheer on the rest of the runners coming in to the finish.
WHAT I ATE
I kept my way of eating the same, but slightly shifted towards foods lower in fiber food as I practiced before past races and key runs. I included foods like white rice, sweet potatoes, fruits and veggies with a higher water content like cucumber and lower fiber protein foods like tofu and tempeh in place of beans. Race morning, I ate 2 medjool dates and drank black tea and water.
- GET TO THE RACE START AT LEAST AN HOUR BEFORE YOUR START TIME: So you have time for your warm up run, exercises, bathroom, etc. The start area is by a large hotel and shopping mall plaza in Lenox Square that you can warm up in along the roads and parking lots. I found there was an adequate amount of porta-potties, though lines may be longer for larger groups of people starting at later times.
- ALLOW ENOUGH TIME TO GET INTO YOUR START WAVE: it seemed like most runners, with the exception of elites, were directed to enter their corrals from an entrance up a hill further near the back rather than cutting through from the front or side closer near the start line.
- DON’T START OUT TOO FAST: This was a common tip I was told by others who ran it the previous year referring to how the first half of the course is a gradual downhill over which you may compensate by running faster, but you want to save energy for the second half of the course that has more uphill.
Hope this review helps you and that you enjoy your time in the race if you run it next. If you can stick around for the Atlanta 4th of July festivities, there are fireworks in Centennial Olympic Park and at other areas in the city. Let me know if you have any questions or need clarification on any tips I shared.