My First Peachtree Road Race
I thought that by today I’d finally find the words to describe my experience at Peachtree Road Race, but it seems harder now than it was three days ago. I must have started this post a dozen times and everything I wrote so far doesn’t give the race justice. I am not sure if I can properly describe how disappointing and how incredible this race was all at the same time. Usually, I have a lot to say about my races and can talk your era off for hours, but this one was different. All I could answer to the usual “how was your race” question, was “I did well” and smile. I don’t have a lot to say because I wasn’t overwhelmed, I was calm, I was collected, I had a plan, I executed that plan down to the last detail. I guess that is one of the most shocking parts of the event. I was prepared and outside of a small hiccup at the beginning, nothing went wrong.
The fact that I was well prepped, allowed me to concentrate on the experience of the race. I was prepared to take on the crowds, struggle through the hills, take on the Cardiac Hill, and come out on the other side tiered and satisfied and full of exciting memories. Instead, it was just…. well, mellow. Very mellow.
I woke up very early on the 4th of July and turned on the news as I was making breakfast. As expected, our local news channels were showing the preparations for the race, talking about road closures, and showing wet and yet hopeful volunteers setting up barricades to help re-route traffic. At that point, it has been raining for two days and no one was expecting to be dry. Days in advance I told myself that I was going to be uncomfortable and it hardly mattered how that discomfort was going to manifest. All I cared about as I left my house that morning was staying dry and warm long enough to get to the start.
Surprisingly, as we approached Buckhead, we didn’t encounter traffic. Atlanta without the stop-and-go? What?! No way! I couldn’t believe it! The rain picked up again and as I was about to exit the car and begin my walk towards my starting wave, I realized that I left my giant trash bag rain poncho at home. After a short search around the car, I found a small umbrella and decided that it’ll do. Since this was my very first Peachtree Road Race, I had no idea if I was going to have an opportunity to stay dry, so I played it safe.
I think I was the only one with an umbrella in that crowd, and honestly, I didn’t care. Since my brother (also my running buddy) was yet to find me in the sea of wet, excited runners, I figured that holding an umbrella would work better than try to explain that I am “right next to the giant green crane across the street from Sacks on Fifth, no wait, we are moving again”. I was right. Ten minutes after Tim texted me his location, I heard my name being called in the crowd and there he was!
Luckily, the rain stopped right before “the gun went off ” and we were on our way. The first three miles seemed deceptively easy. I looked down at my watch and realized that I just ran a 5K thirteen minutes faster than normal. After a short moment of panic I checked in with myself: I was not tired, I was not hurt, and I could, in fact, take the Cardiac Hill without an issue!
I was told by many veteran runners that Cardiac Hill is the best part of the race. Usually crowds of spectators line the sidewalks and cheer on the runners. I was told that the energy you feel on that hill is unreal and if your legs are giving out, you’d run on sheer principal because no one wants to disappoint a crowd!
I guess I had very high expectation. When I got to the hill, there were no crowds. A few spectators stood holding signs of encouragement, but that’s about it. I’d like to say thank you to those who braved the rain to encourage us on the hill.
By the time I got to the final mile, the crowd grew more active and the runners began to slow down. People were handing out beer and water to the participants and encouraging us to keep going. If I was beginning to question the dedication of my wonderful city to this race, all of that dissipated when a toddler ran out into the street to high-five me.
I finished the race to cheering and applause with a 10K PR, walked through a beautiful grassy field in Piedmont Park that was slowly turning into a mud pit, stopped in at the Atlanta Track Club VIP area and said hello to a few people. By the time I was done with my post race snack, my brother called and we began our long walk to our car.
I think that post race walk was probably one of my favorite parts of the race. Maybe it is because my brother is an extremely charismatic person, or because we, runners, are a naturally friendly bunch, but I have never seen anyone receive this many high-fives and make so many people smile as he did. It made me truly proud to be a part of the Atlanta running community and to be his big sister.
Regardless of the weather and the dirt, the race was a success and I am beginning to think that I have found a new 4th of July tradition. If you live in Atlanta, or if you are a runner, Peachtree Road Race is one of those events that you have to run at least once.