Not so long ago a runner could fudge a little bit about his Peachtree Road Race time. Those days are gone.
Now that all 55,000 runners have a chip time, all you have to do is look here to see that I ran last year’s Peachtree in 1:14.47. I thought I had trained enough last year to finish under an hour.
But a little background is in order to explain how I could be about 15 minutes off between expectation and reality.
I’ve run the Peachtree 21 times, the past 20 in a row. My first, in 1979, I trained with a friend who ran cross country in high school. I was 20 years old and we ran multiple times up and around Stone Mountain. I reached Piedmont Park on July 4 a good bit under 50 minutes.
Then I took 10 years off and didn’t get much exercise to speak of during those years.
For the past 20 years I’ve used half-committed training for the Peachtree as a means to offset the effects of aging and to mitigate a bad habit. I smoked Marlboros for a long time, quitting in January 2008. Often I didn’t start training until I got my number in the mail, usually in May. I rarely ran more than three miles at a time before the race and didn’t keep close track of time.
I’ve never been one to let tempting fate get in the way of a joke. That explains the Marathon Photo of me with a cigar parked in my mouth from the 1997 road race. I carried a cigar in a plastic bag the first five miles until I got to the part where the Marathon people shot their photos. I knew the risk was an obit in the AJC headlined: “Peachtree runner, 39, carried cigar under race number.”
Since I’ve drawn attention to myself with this blog, I’m going to train with more of a purpose this year. I’ve started running with a watch for the first time in 30 years. I’m going to follow the Jeff Galloway schedule as best as I can. And I’m going say right here that I’ll get my time under an hour, well aware that the world will be able to see if that happens on ajc.com.
In coming weeks I’ll keep you updated on my training, share some memories of Peachtrees past, and maybe even have a tip for the average runner looking to make a respectable showing this July 4.
My first training tip: Want to finish the Peachtree in less than 50 minutes? Be 20 years old. It worked for me.