When prepping for any race, many of us have made a habit of studing course maps to familiarize ourselves with what’s ahead. I’m a planner… somewhat obsessive-compulsively so. Throughout my life, I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time nervously analyzing elevation profiles, mile markers, aid stations, water stops and bathroom opportunities in the hopes of fully preparing myself for success on race morning. Not to mention street closures and spectator guides so my family can find ways to cheer me on.
But with the Peachtree… it’s different for me.
Please don’t take this as blasphemous, since I speak of speed work and training hard and pushing yourself, but I never “race” the PRR. It’s one of my favorite events of the year, and I thoroughly enjoy running it for fun, without the pressures of performing. I take it stride by stride, soaking up the joy of exercise, community, fun and patriotism that permeate Atlanta on July 4th.
Leading up to July 4th, I study a different course map. Unconcerned with details I normally obsess over for optimum time, I rather reminisce on my own recollection of markers and highlights headed down Peachtree St. Forget aid stations and elevations, I have more important things on my course map.
***Distances are approximate, or just completely wrong. I never promised my memory is perfect!
Arriving at Race: Walking by the elite tent… just hoping for a celebrity sighting.
Getting to Start Line: Watching the American flag (roughly the size of the Governor’s mansion) rising above the crowd… and beginning our Independence Day singing the National Anthem in a chorus of tens of thousands.
Start Line: Finally – My group’s turn!
Mile .5: People handing out doughnuts and coffee. Must. Stay. Strong. Say no.
Mile 1: Elderly man in wheelchair blasting the Chariots of Fire theme from his boombox. My personal favorite memory, I looked forward to seeing this gentleman every year on the right hand side of the road near Kroger in Buckhead. Sometime in the early 2000s, he was no longer there. Broke a little piece of my heart to be honest.
Mile 1.1: Dodging t-shirt cannons outside of Moe’s. Always tempting to grab one, but then I remember I’d have to carry it for 5+ miles…
Mile 2: Listening to the Breeze Kings – one of the best blues bands in Atlanta!
Mile 3ish: Running through the holy water sprinkler surrounded by churches on every corner.
Mile 3.8: Being honored by the presence of Shepherd Spinal Center patients lining the sidewalk.
Mile 4.2: “Visiting” (ahem… attacking each other with water cups as I run by) with my family and friends at The Temple water station.
Mile 4.3: Dance party at the Fur Bus – holla! I love beer, but could never bring myself to take what they offer.
Mile 5: FINALLY conquered the last big hill and smelling the finish.
Mile 5.5: Fake finish line photo opp. Arms up!
Mile 6: Following the tree-lined shade, knowing that Piedmont Park is beckoning close by.
Finish Line: Joining the party with 55,000 of my closest friends.
Finish Chute: T-shirt, check. Water, check. Goodies, check! Time to celebrate a great day.
For all our first-timers out there… get excited. It truly is an event to behold. For our veterans, where do your memories take you?