When I first ran the AJC Peachtree Road Race in 1979 we didn’t have your fancy GPS watches, iPods or Justin Bieber. It was a primitive time, but we managed.
Another thing we didn’t have was a Peachtree sorted into time groups. With only 20,000 runners the race didn’t seem all that crowded until we all reached a near bottleneck on the trails within Piedmont Park.
In 1990 I started running the race again after taking 10 years off. It was the year time groups were introduced to the race and the number of runners allowed was increased from 25,000 to 40,000. It definitely made sense to separate the sweating masses into smaller groups of sweating masses. Even then I still saw some conflict between faster runners aggressively weaving their way through the slower ones bunched in front of them.
For each of the subsequent years I’ve anxiously looked in my mailbox in late May and early June waiting to see how the number lottery is going to treat me. Of course, I could have run in an Atlanta Track Club sanctioned event and submitted a documented time. But that would not have worked in my favor, given my training regimen.
Getting a low number – even if undeserved – makes a big difference. I know when I’m standing next to the Lenox Square parking lot it won’t be nearly as hot a trip down Peachtree as when I start at the back of the pack, halfway to Doraville. At least it seemed like I was near Doraville when I pinned on No. 93170 on July 4, 2005.
The heat and humidity pick up significantly between the times Group 3 and Group 9 starts. And the sun rises in the east over the multistory buildings in Buckhead and Midtown that provide shade just a little earlier in the morning.
I’m sure you’ve heard that this year’s race will feature Start Wave Placement ™. This process means runners will be randomly slotted at the back of the pack if they can’t (or don’t) supply a documented time from the Peachtree or other certified race.
I don’t disagree that this is fair. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
I didn’t see much point to submitting my Peachtree time from last year. So the Start Wave Placement computer will spit out my number.
No doubt I’ll be starting from about south Doraville once again this year. And there won’t be a GPS watch in sight.