Finding Your Place in the Crowd

One of my good friends (who just happens to be married to my training partner) finished his first Ironman yesterday. 

I finished a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese yesterday. 

While reveling in the rockstar awesomeness of my friend (11 hrs – wow!), I had a little voice trying to sneak inside my head, challenging me with thoughts of “what did YOU do today.” I had to quickly silence that voice, because we all have to focus on our own individual goals.

My point? I shamefully, at the age of 28, still love children’s food. My real point? We are all athletes with our own agenda.

If you read through the varied comments on this blog, if you just read the blog itself, you can see the strong dichotomy in AJC Peachtree Road Race goals. With so many runners, obviously all ranges of athleticism and running ability will be covered on July 4th.  John and myself – both writers with a storied history of the Peachtree that spans most of our individual lives – have different training habits, different expectations, different goals. But we both, like all our 55,000 compatriots, have a rightful place on Peachtree Street on race day.

You will see world class athletes racing for prize money. Local elites racing their competition. Everyday runners pushing towards their personal best. Celebration seekers looking for a good time. People who may be in horrible shape, but desperately love the Peachtree for its inspiration with their health goals.

And who are we to judge who has more right to be there?

A dichotomy doesn’t have to be a disconnect. Despite our differences, this is our day to enjoy the experience for ourselves, but amongst a great community. There is no need for the tortoises and the hares to hash it out, to argue whether our goal is the “right” goal. You want to race on July 4th? Go for it. You want to mosey? More power to you. You want to not shower, wear lots of perfume and walk the whole darn way? Technically that’s your prerogative (though you may not make too many friends with the perfume thing). One of the places I feel most at home is among the running community. The work ethic, the commraderie, the competitive nature, the healthy spirit, the joy… it’s a great group to be a part of… and I believe it can be an inclusive one.

So whether you are an Ironman, a marathoner, a solid 20 mile a weeker, a walker, a novice, or someone who has never run more than 5 miles at one time… you have a place in the crowd at the AJC Peachtree Road Race. I think we can all respect someone who has worked toward’s achieving a goal – whether big or small, tougher or more mac and cheese like. Race day is your day, race day is my day, race day is everyone’s day. Remember to celebrate that.

“People can’t understand why a man runs. They don’t see any sport in it. Argue it lacks the sight and thrill of body contact. Yet, the conflict is there, more raw and challenging than any man versus man competition. For in running it is man against himself, the cruelest of opponents. The other runners are not the real enemies. His adversary lies within him, in his ability, with brain and heart to master himself and his emotions.”
 - Glenn Cunningham, American Olympian

3 comments Add your comment

Gen (F22757) Neyland

June 28th, 2010
12:02 pm

Lauren : If I may, ” A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected by in as many ways as they’re capable of understanding.”—-
Steve Prefontaine

At this juncture in my running life, I’m evolving back to where I began this activity in MAR of 1991. Just run, placement be danged. Let’s just give it our best and let the timimg chips fall where they may…


June 28th, 2010
6:04 pm

I’ve run a race each of the past 2 weekends and both times (after seeing to my own hydration needs) I’ve wandered over to the finish line area to cheer on those that finished after me. I hope I gave my competitors some encouragement and nurtured there desire to continue. It wouldn’t be much of a race if one were all by oneself or if we all had equal abilities!


July 2nd, 2010
5:09 pm

I have run the Peachtree about 17 times (and I still have all of my shirts!). Every year as I get older, and it is harder to motivate myself to train (because I only “train” for the Peachtree!) I say it will probably be my last. But, as I flip the calendar page to “March”, with the registration deadline forever embedded in my brain, I say, “Ok, one more time.” Then, as I near race day I wonder if I have trained well enough – will it be harder than I remember from last year, can I make it over heartbreak hill, will this indeed be my last Peachtree? But, as the wonderful, supportive, cheering Atlanta crowd, and my fellow racers inspire and motivate me to the finish, and I realize I have made it “one more time”, I am convinced yet again that the Atlanta Peachtree is the only place to be on the 4th of July!