A race of 6.2 miles, but not, alas, for everyone

It’s a great event, OK? As I’ve said before, it’s the great Atlanta event. But when you’ve observed as many Peachtree Road Races as I have, you pick up nuances. And this time it wasn’t a nuance. It was blatant.

I arrived Saturday morning at my viewing spot of choice — Peachtree Battle, about two miles into the course — and the first runners I saw were two ladies. One of them had a race number in the 30,000s; the other was higher still. Given that the seeded elite runners hadn’t yet passed, it was clear these two had not, shall we say, participated to the full extent of the rules. And then a spectator asked the question I was too angry to pose:

“Did you all start early?”

(In other words, did you cheat?)

And one of the ladies said, referring to the apparent difficulty of doing it the right way: “It just takes too long.”

A stipulation: “Cheating” in the Peachtree isn’t cheating the way Rosie Ruiz did it in the 1980 Boston Marathon — jumped on the course late, got to the finish line first and collected the winner’s medal. Peachtree course-jumpers and start-flouters don’t taking anything from anyone else. Every finisher gets the T-shirt. But I wonder how many of the 55,000 can wear it with real pride.

It’s only in recent years I’ve begun to watch the race numbers. My wife has walked five Peachtrees now, and she’s scrupulous about starting where she’s supposed to start. (On Saturday it was in the final group — the dread 90,000s.) Others are less attentive to detail. I saw a couple jogging on the right while the lead pack buzzed by on the left. The man was wearing a number in the 90,000s. That group wouldn’t start officially for another 90 minutes.

I posed the question on Twitter: Am I the only one bothered by this? Those who Tweeted back didn’t seem to share my indignation, and one respondent offered this: “How is it cheating? What are those people ‘winning’?” Then, in a confessional moment: “I’ve done both depending on who I am running with, number I get, et cetera, and have never felt I was cheating anyone.”

Is it really cheating to flout Peachtree rules?

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I can understand if it’s a matter of companionship: You’re running with someone whose number is in the 20,000s and yours is in the 40,000s. To alleviate the problem of finding one another in Piedmont Park, you simply move up. But over time I’ve seen too many examples of Peachtree cheating done simply for the sake of expediency. And that, to be frank, burns me up.

And it doesn’t sit well with the Atlanta Track Club, which stages the event. Said spokesperson Tracy Lott: “The race is meant to be run from start to finish. The T-shirt is truly a finisher’s shirt … [Cutting logistical corners is] not what the event is about by any means.”

That said, the ATC and its volunteers cannot police every foot of a 6.2-mile course. Said Lott: “We do the best we can we the resources we have. By timing all individuals [a first this year] we will hopefully cut down on [cheating].”

And we can hope. Because it is a great event, and it is held on the day we celebrate truth, justice and the American way. Even in the 21st Century, I don’t believe the American way has been amended to allow cheating.

195 comments Add your comment

jeffrey d

July 4th, 2009
2:12 pm

When I commented on Facebook I thought you meant the people who jump in a mile or two into the race because they don’t want to run the whole 6.2. That’s what bothers me. “I want to proudly wear the shirt and boast to my friends about how I ran the Peachtree, but I don’t want to do the whole thing. Too long.”

I’ve done what you’re talking about…but only to stay with my friend (I was time group 1B she was 1A). But I had no idea people were jumping the gun that early. If they’re there before the Kenyans and seeded runners are there? I’m not sure what “it just takes too long” is supposed to mean.” You know when your time group is going to start so uh….show up at that time.

jeffrey d

July 4th, 2009
2:15 pm

As a couple of side notes about the race:

1) I hate how Moe’s always seems to hand out XL t-shirts. It’s more than likely that the people in the first few time groups aren’t going to need an XL. Oh Moe’s.

2) I love how there’s always at least one guy towards the end offering Krispy Kreme donuts. Very funny (and kind too….they’re legitimately offering donuts, not just taunting)

Elizabeth

July 4th, 2009
2:20 pm

As I was walking to my time group 8, I saw group 2 going by near Lenox. I counted at least 30-40 9’s. I was furious. Play by the rules, people. It doesn’t matter if you “aren’t winning”. They divide the groups up for a reason. No one from the ATC seemed to even be checking. I wish they could track who these people are since we had timing tags this year. Of course, in the 8’s, there were people with no intentions of running walking slowly on the left. Just had to vent! The race was a lot of fun and it was wonderful to be back at the park!

Rebecca

July 4th, 2009
2:21 pm

Wonder if D-tags will eventually fix that problem. I was thinking about it as I watched people jump in left and right.

Dave

July 4th, 2009
2:26 pm

I’m bothered by the people who snap up a “race” number with no intention of even trying to run it. It’s not the Peachtree Walkathon, people. Leave the numbers for real runners.

Beth

July 4th, 2009
2:32 pm

I agree totally with Mark’s post. This was my first Peachtree in 6 years and I was amazed at how many 90,000s and 80,000s I saw finishing around the same time I did (30,000s). Folks who jump in and don’t run the whole thing are cheating all the folks who run/walk the whole race. As Tracy Lott said, it is supposed to be a finisher’s shirt, finishers of the 10K, not a portion of the 10K. As for folks who are just wanting to be with a friend, then follow the guidelines and drop BACK to their time group and run with them there.

Cathy

July 4th, 2009
2:36 pm

They are cheating themselves. I am sure they do the same thing in all aspects of their lives. If you don’t want to run the whole race, then sign up for a 5k and let the honest people get the numbers. I know of several serious runners who would run start to finish in the correct group who did not get a number. It is just pathetic that these people would do that, but they have to live with themselves. Hopefully they will be exposed with the new timing system-

Mark in Woodstock

July 4th, 2009
2:37 pm

Having run the race this morning it was incredible the number of people “waiting” by the side of the road to jump in….get in the back of the pack and run the entire race…also if you want a better starting spot you need to earn it like the rest of us with a qualifying time….we have no place for you CHEATERS in our beloved race.

Jon

July 4th, 2009
2:39 pm

AMEN! I am in TG1A, and ran a 7:35 opening mile, then avg 6:32 the rest of the way. Why? All the bandits and lazy slow butts with numbers 70K plus that jump in front of me. Last year I knocked one guy down, and he deserved it. I HATE the jump ins- friggin losers.

Bill

July 4th, 2009
2:40 pm

I have been angered for years by “Fat Waddling Walkers” (or other descriptions for FWWs) with numbers in the 60,000+ who seem to get in the way of seeded runners at mile maker 2 or greater. They may think they are not cheating, but they sure are making the race less fun for everyone else. And I think they are cheating, if only themselves and the spirit of the event. I say — no time, no t-shirt! (I don’t know how you’d administer that, though.)

Douglas Wood

July 4th, 2009
2:43 pm

I agree wholeheartedly. It was my first race and I was with a buddy whose number was in the 90s, so I ran with him. We didn’t even think of him moving up to my number, which was in the 60s. This all reminds me of what my son’s preschool told us when he started. She said she sees so many adults who can’t wait in line, don’t have patience to play by the rules and thinks, there goes another person who didn’t learn what he or she should have learned in kindergarten. And what’s with Chic-fil-A across from Piedmont Hospital throwing T-shirts into the crowd? That was dangerous. I almost mowed someone over when they suddenly stopped to try and grab a T-shirt.

Tamara

July 4th, 2009
2:43 pm

I heard one pre-race runner give a very snotty remark to an ATC volunteer when they were told to go backwards to their own group. It just isn’t the way to start the day…

Also, WHY must spectators insist on smoking on the course? Seriously, it’s not that pleasant for those of us running!

Bobby

July 4th, 2009
2:43 pm

It’s not that I don’t agree with you 100% about the cheating but I don’t know what you do about it either. For the Peachtree it’s the coveted shirt at the end and I don’t know of any effective way of preventing someone from simply showing up at the end wearing a race bib and collecting the shirt. I suppose race officials could take down numbers along the route and disqualify people but then you have to contend with human error which could deny an actual finisher the shirt. I ran the race the full 6.2 (6.3 by my Garmin) this morning. Congrats to your wife for completing the distance.

Bob

July 4th, 2009
2:49 pm

Perhaps in the future the timing devices can be used to enforce the real rules……

Doc

July 4th, 2009
2:50 pm

Cheating is bad. Another form of nonsportsmanship is escalating each year: aggression. My wife was 4 groups in front of me. She said she got shoved outright (while walking..on the right side..practically along the curb) into one her friends by a ‘gentleman’ running through, nearly toppling both ladies.

Oh, what I was thinking when my wife shared this with me just an hour ago, when we met up back home: first was my wish for the ‘gentleman’ to hopefully read this and accept my invitation for us to meet and let me share some lessons in Tae Kwon Do and proper behavior.

Mainly, I believe the ATC can have their volunteers use some 21st century technology and savvy to send a message: such behavior will deprive one of their beloved T-shirt, and be banned from registering in future events. How hard is it to snap a pick of an offender’s bib number and send that number to an official at the Finish Line? Then, the perp can be met with a T-shirt Nazi line: “No T-shirt for you!”

For sure with this aggression, displayed by the shovers or the rude sayer: “Walk on the right”, which is ‘road rage’ envoking, a message needs to be sent about zero tolerance on any confirmable, verifyable aggression.

BobDog

July 4th, 2009
2:50 pm

I suppose that with the ID tags, people who cut in will not show as having started and should be ineligible to run next year??? Especially if they show a finish and no start.

JimC

July 4th, 2009
2:51 pm

I’m not a runner, but my hat is off to those who do the 10K in the heat and humidity of July. I agree with the person who said that people who cheat in the race probably cheat in other things too.

Mike

July 4th, 2009
2:52 pm

Companions who wish to start together need to start with the group of the runner with the highest number. Using companionship as a reason for moving up is a poor excuse for cutting the line of all the other runners who are in their designated spots.

Frank Beltran

July 4th, 2009
2:52 pm

Since every number got a computer chip, only those whose chip shows that it was recorded at the start and at the end should get the coveted T-shirt. That way those who jump in get no shirt! Only 9 weeks to GEORGIA FOOTBALL! GO DAWGS!!

Johh

July 4th, 2009
2:53 pm

I observe many more cheaters now than when I began running the event 20+ years ago. Many people join the course in Midtown, non-sweating, appearing as fresh as if they had just stepped out of their air-conditioned homes. Start jumpers with high numbers run in the lower number groups. As for the guy that had to cheat by moving up to stay with his partner- did it ever occur to him to move back to the lower time group? That’s the protocol.
Who is being cheated? Everyone of us in the PTRR and the event itself. Our experience and accomplishment are diminished if our “trophy” shirts only mean that we showed up at the end along with thousands who walked or ran only part of the course. And the time group start procedure makes the event enjoyable for all. We pay for event management and agree to a rule system when we enter.
I believe that it is a sad part of what we have become- a cheater society. Too many have no use for rules applyig to them. Cheat in sports, cheat the government, cheat the consumer, cheat merchants. Cheat red lights. Jump into the race at Peachtree Battle. Let the chumps wait an hour and a half to start at Lenox. It’s a lack of respect for your fellow runners, citizens, and 40 year old institution- the PTRR.

The Bald Monk

July 4th, 2009
2:54 pm

I hate cheating cheaters. Course jumpers are the lowest scum. I wish there was some way to prevent the line jumpers from getting their t-shirts.

SA

July 4th, 2009
2:55 pm

This is my 4th year running this race and it annoys me to no end when I spend half my time (in the 20,000 group) trying to go around walkers in the later groups who CLEARLY cheated. All we can hope for is that the ATC will be able to see from the timing who cheated, and prevent them from entering next year’s race. Enough already.

Independent thinker

July 4th, 2009
2:59 pm

As someone who just ran my 25th consecutive PTRR, it galls me to see this type of behavior. I guess some people just believe they are special. Consequently, this may have been my last one. Can’t deal with the cheaters and boorish behavior. I don’t see the spirit of the Peachtree as it was intended. Sad…..

[...] birdies. I thank you for your help, and for cheering me up on a day when I was somewhat angered by the cheating I saw ongoing. And now to your more cheery [...]

Samatva

July 4th, 2009
3:00 pm

Atlanta has problem residents – people who are “too important” to follow the rules. This was so evident by my recent trip to Denver/Boulder – people follow the many, more stringent rules and drivers there are not the jerks that so many Atlanta drivers can be.

While I didn’t run this year, I have found the Peachtree to be the worst 10K due to issues mentioned here – the smoking by participants, the huge number of walkers (many who must have been jumpers) who don’t stay to the side.

If the organizers want to make this a great road race, they must have entry standards, such as a finishing time ( < 1:45? ) from another race. Having 30,000 “real” runners would be so much better than allowing all the others to clog thisngs up.

I hope the ATC will publish a list of “not an accurate or complete time” participants… There’s enough photo evidence to dispute any real malfunctions of the timing system.

It’s so sad that so many in Atlanta need to cheat (or speed or be rude) to prop up their self-esteem.

Mike Lum

July 4th, 2009
3:01 pm

Thanks for exposing this. It’s happened for many years. My pet peeve is the walkers, who should stay to the right. Instead they meander about wherever they wish. I’ve seen a few cell phones in years past. This year a lady was stopped in the middle of the road, near Collier, sending a text. I also saw a lady walking to the start in her running outfit and number…puffing on a cigarette.

Good ideas…since everyone was timed, next year they ought to be able to put the slowpokes in the back…and the cheaters out of the race.

Michelle

July 4th, 2009
3:02 pm

I agree that it’s just wrong to “jump in” down the course, no matter what the reason may be. If you are going to run the Peachtree then commit to running the whole race. If you don’t want to start at the back of the pack then train and get in a time group.I’m not a super fast runner and I’ve worked hard to train and do qualifying races for the past several years for 1 B. I had several people jumping in front of me near Piedmont and then moving a turtle’s pace. It’s really just rude and self-centered, but these cheaters are really just cheating themselves so pity them. I don’t think they have the same mentality about wearing the shirt…they don’t feel it’s a symbol of their dedication and resolve, but rather a fun t-shirt to have in their collection. It’s not a true “runners” race so I guess we should just call it a fun Atlanta tradition and lower our expectations. It’s more of a parade than a race. But for my fellow rule followers out there…the good news is that those that jump in probably won’t have an official posted race time because their timing device never crossed the start line mat…and I am sure they are all just fine with that!

Chuck

July 4th, 2009
3:04 pm

Mark I agree with you somewhat as a long time runner in the seeded section, but you should know a little more about this subject before posting. This year they let the original runners from 40 yrs. ago start at 7:22 AM and they were to stay on the right side of the road. So therefore some you saw were probably the original runners (and family members). It is bad that the others jump in at different parts of the course, but their only cheating themselves and now with the new timing system won’t get credit for their times.

Jay Litton

July 4th, 2009
3:05 pm

I enjoyed the weather and the Peachtree as much as ever. However, after 12 Peachtrees I must agree that I saw more high numbers in my group after 1/2 mile than at anytime ever before. I even saw numerous 70’s and 80’s at the 3 mile marker!

I agree that a little high tech effort like Doc discusses would increase the costs of the event but would definitely make it fair for the others that are playing by the rules.

Andy

July 4th, 2009
3:06 pm

You are given a number and you need to RUN in your time group. Like when you get a ticket to the braves game, you don’t sit in someone else’s seat and interfere with their enjoyment of the event. I agree with Mark’s post. If it’s too long, then don’t run it. Find a 5k. If you really want to be at the start of the race then run a pre-qualifier like me and get seeded.
What kills me is the folks who intentionally put down a faster time on the app than they will actually run and they end up in a low group and WALK. Do NOT WALK in the lower time groups! I wish to run the event like it should be done. If you wish to walk then join group 9. Thank you again for the blog, Mark.

spider

July 4th, 2009
3:06 pm

i cant believe the PEACHREE has come to this

First Time runner

July 4th, 2009
3:07 pm

Not only is it the cheaters who are irritating, it’s also those who don’t read the rules and WALK across the whole course and leave barely any room for the runners. The rules say that walkers need to walk on the RIGHT side, not thoe whole road. I almost tripped a couple of times because of these people. On top of that, I don’t think the walkers realize you’re making the runners use more energy than we need to be using by having to go around you. The ATC should limit the number of walkers to ensure the runners can actually move on the course. SO annoyed by this

BobBQ

July 4th, 2009
3:08 pm

I’ve run the race since 1978. Here’s what I’ve learned, you join the ATC, you get a lower race #. Period! I’m still amazed at the types who sport a 10,000 or 20,000 # & can barely trot. It’s who you know in this race! I jump in 1/4 mile in, I won’t be held hostage by the ATC. People need to chill.

Justin M

July 4th, 2009
3:10 pm

Simple solution, and they’re almost already there. Put checkpoints up along the course that read the RFID tags they started using this year. If a runner didn’t pass by all of the checkpoints, and they had an abnormal time between two of them (place them equidistant, then average the time it takes that runner to get from point to point — and if one of them is WAY off, something is wrong)… then they don’t get a shirt.

Jon M

July 4th, 2009
3:10 pm

I know the publish the “slower keep right” In the book and announce it but they need to post it or tell the “race staff” to inforce it on down the course. Its horribble!!!!! Oh and if you plan on stopping to drink your water walk/run your butt to the right side of the road!!!! PLEASE!!!!!!!!!! Its a frigan race people!!!!

catlady

July 4th, 2009
3:11 pm

These are the same people who jump in front of the line at an exit on the interstate. Me first! they cry. It’s too hard (or long)! they cry. Just let people pay their money and give them a tshirt. Then maybe they will actually run the thing or not; they will have the shirt. Allow the elite runners ONLY on the course at one time, and everyone else at another. Early nonelite runners pulled off and detained as tresspassers by the police.

When it is time for the wheelchair racers, do they allow “runners” on there then? Is there a problem with wheelchair racers coming in midway?

For goodness sakes, don’t reward cheaters!

Paula

July 4th, 2009
3:14 pm

I agree. I got stuck with the kiss of death 9 this yr. I definitely was not happy. I was one of the first to sign on line. My girlfriend got in about 20 minutes after I did and she got in the 3’s. But even so I followed the rules and went where I was supposed to. Thank God it wasn’t as hot as usual. Too bad there’s no way to stop people from jumping in wherever they feel like it.

Gary

July 4th, 2009
3:14 pm

This was my 29th Peachtree. I was in time group 1 and finished with and shortly before people who obviously didn’t run the whole course. There is no realistic way to keep people from jumping in. However, what if after time group 2, T-shirts were not given to anyone until 50 minutes after their group was scheduled to start. At least cheaters would have to stand around awhile to earn their T-shirts.

Childers

July 4th, 2009
3:16 pm

Howdy & God Bless America! That said, I ran & walked the whole PTRR today with a 40,000 number. I ran my first one in 1983 and ran several more. The I marched several playing a marching snare drum with a man who’d had a stroke and couldn’t quite run – we were always the last ones to finish, AFTER the cleaner trucks. They always found a couple of t-shirts for us – however long it took us.

Thus year my wife, who’d trained all year got a number in the 80,000s. She applied for both of us at the same time. I found odd the apparent randomness of the number assignments. Neither of us had any qualifying times for a lower number and didn’t report any. So, we didn’t cheat and ran/walked the whole thing and had wildly different time groups.

Nonetheless, I too am maddened by the junk in the trunks that want to walk three abreast on the left side of the road. The race officials announce that walker should keep to the right – just as in vehicular traffic. But, people don’t think the rules apply “to them” and are incensed when someone verbally reminds them “walkers to the right” (no, I’m not the rude shover). When we find the cure for people, it’ll all be over.

Happy 4th & God Bless America!

Stating the Obvious

July 4th, 2009
3:17 pm

I’d like some clarification.

If this was the first ARR that was electronically timed, wouldn’t you have to officially cross the start line to have your time start?

Seems obvious to me that you would – and those that don’t, shouldn’t get a shirt! Pretty simple really.

Hopefully the races is 100% privately run (the government could frig up a free lunch) – and if that’s the case, I don’t see this problem happeming much longer with the electronics of today!

Nora

July 4th, 2009
3:17 pm

My favorite evidence of the cheaters is when you see the TV coverage – the reporter standing on Cardiac Hill with the clock showing 45:00 and TG 9 people WALKING by, waving at the camera. Huh? Your Time Group hasn’t even left the corral yet and you’re already at Mile 3? You must be a smoking superstar…..(not)

John

July 4th, 2009
3:19 pm

This was my 5th or so race and I ran it with my two sons in group 9. I’m a pretty slow runner but made it through and had a great time. I agree that this is more of an ATL tradition than a serious race for most (not all perhaps) – even I need to slow down and dodge left side walkers. So – don’t let the cheaters take away your achievement – you have that – they do not. Also – I think the walker situation was better than past races – more in the right lane. I personally suspect that many of the left side walkers might not be aware of the right way to do it. Yes there is info here and there – but there needs to be a LARGE sign at the start and every few miles for walkers to stay right – how about some color-coded markings on the road as well – indicating a walkers lane?

John

July 4th, 2009
3:20 pm

Mr. Bradley, in reference to the companion running statement you made, here is the official statement as listed in the official race instructions. “If you want to run with someone else who has been assigned to a different group, you can do so as long as you run in the later of the two groups.”

I wonder how many folks heeded that rule? But all in all a fun day was had by all.

Mark Bradley

July 4th, 2009
3:21 pm

Sorry to have been away, folks, but I was compiling my Peachtree-via-Twitter post.

Chuck is correct about the runners who were allowed to start early — the “original 110″ folks who ran the first Peachtree — but those people had clearly marked shirts. They’re not the ones I mean. I mean the people whose numbers were so far out of logistical sync they couldn’t possibly have started where they were assigned.

Philip

July 4th, 2009
3:21 pm

It is the very reason I stopped running the race. I was always in time group 3 and always had people from the last time group in mine. The biggest problem is that these people tend to walk. After dodging these walkers for 6.2 miles i have run the close to 10 miles. I think a they should have everyone qualify for the Peachtree by running 4 other 10k during the year.

Bo

July 4th, 2009
3:22 pm

“How is it cheating? What are those people ‘winning’?” …

I’ll tell you how it’s cheating. I train hard all year long to get a TG1A number. I arrive early and wait patiently in my time group. And then the race starts, and all these cheating lard asses jump from the sidewalk anywhere from .5 miles to several miles into the race.

Instead of running my expected 7:00/mile pace, I weave and bob around the L-A’s for the first couple of miles. My finishing time reflects the obstacles that these cheaters represent.

So, they’ve cheated me out of the space I’ve earned on the road. And they’ve cheated me out of a better finishing time. I’m no elite athlete, but I play by the rules, only to be punished by the idiots that think too highly of themselves.

To you cheaters, you should only pull half that T-shirt onto your fat bodies, because you surely didn’t earn the whole thing.

Thanks Mark, great column, hope your wife had a great experience.

Mark Bradley

July 4th, 2009
3:23 pm

As I say, Mrs. Bradley wasn’t thrilled about starting in the 90,000s, either, especially when her two companions had lower numbers. (And especially given that Mr. Bradley works at, er, the AJC.) But she’s a stickler for details, as I say.

John

July 4th, 2009
3:24 pm

BobBQ, you are not held hostage. You do not have to participate if you feel the ATC is not treating you fairly. You have no entitlement to be in the PTRR or to establish your own rules because you do not agree with them.

I do agree that except for a few thousand people this is a fun event and everyone who can start at the start, finish at the finish, follow a few simple rules, and treat their fellow runners/walkers with respect should be encouraged to participate. This is a great Atlanta event and we should work to keep it fun and meaningful.

Jay

July 4th, 2009
3:24 pm

While running this morning, I mentioned to a fellow runner as we moved to the RIGHT to pass walkers on the left…”they run this race the way they probably drive…clog the left lane instead of “slower traffic keep right”. Folks, they tell you over and over again, KEEP RIGHT IF YOU ARE WALKING OR ARE A SLOWER RUNNER. Walking down the middle with your friends 5 across is just rude and selfish. This is a running event, not a parade! If you want to make it a party and/or a social event, then WAIT IN THE PARK!

Mark Bradley

July 4th, 2009
3:24 pm

She did, Bo. Thanks much.