In the scanned image of my old bib number below you’ll see that in 2005 I started the AJC Peachtree Road Race in the back of the pack – group nine. After the finish line, as a volunteer in Piedmont Park handed me the bag with my T-shirt, she abruptly marked my bib with the letter “X.”
For years I puzzled over the meaning of that crudely scrawled “X.”
The haunting memory was stirred Saturday when I opened an envelope that just arrived from the Atlanta Track Club.
I riffled through the assorted ads and instructions inside until I found my 2010 Peachtree bib. And. There. It. Was. An “X” (followed by 77 and something, something, something).
I know now that woman who “Xed” me in 2005 was not just another volunteer. I have apparently been cursed by the Oracle of the Peachtree Road Race.
My Peachtree time last year didn’t earn me a high seed this year. But I hoped I wouldn’t be bringing up the rear, starting this year’s run near Brookhaven. At 9 a.m.
Looking back, I can see how I angered the gods and brought this misfortune on myself. For the first time in a long time I’ve put in the preparation to finish in less than an hour. In the past I’ve drawn low group numbers and the runners that trained harder but started behind me had to dodge and weave to pass me.
Now my dilemma is whether to settle for a lousy draw, or do I try to improve my view of the start line between now and July 4th?
I can think of two ways to get a better start without adding to the small fortune I’ve spent the past two months in an effort to be a 60-minute man.
1) I can poll my running friends and post on Facebook to try to pry a better start time from someone who has a more desirable bib, but is unable to run for some reason.
2) I can camp out at the Peachtree Health and Fitness Expo and hope that I win one of the hourly bib drawings and get a better wave position.
And there is yet a third possibility. I’d like to buy a vowel. Not just any vowel, but one of the first three in the alphabet. (Cost is not to exceed registration value, of course, per race rules). I saw several fine-looking race bibs for sale on eBay over the weekend.
If I can get a better starting spot, my plan is to run with the “X” chip that I got in the mail so I would get electronic credit for my time. A better starting position would spare me a lot of dodging and weaving. It would greatly improve my shot at reaching the 60-minute goal I’ve worked toward for 12 weeks.
If you’ve gotten your envelope from the Atlanta Track Club, how did the Oracle treat you?