Fooling With the Numbahs

After my AJC Peachtree Road Race bib arrived in the mail, I reacted with shock and denial.

Then, with the other stages of grief, came the pain and guilt over not successfully posting my mediocre time from last year that would have landed me in a “G” or “H” wave instead of an “X” (pictured below).

At the anger and bargaining stage, I went public here on my way to other stages of grief, acceptance and hope.

One way I thought I might deal with this – surf over to eBay, where about two dozen bibs have been up for auction for more than a week.

(Warning: the Atlanta Track Club’s deadline to legitimately transfer your number expired in May. If you wear someone else’s bib this Sunday, you are breaking rules. Same can be said about the people who run in costume).

When you look at my bib in the photo, you are seeing it displayed like most of those pictured on eBay. There have been listings this month for waves from “A” all the way back to group “X.”


Some listings refer to the grouping by the first digit in the number series that follows the letter. That seems misleading and designed to trick people who are used to the old system of numbered time groups.

Which sounds like the more desirable starting position, “time group 7” or start wave “U?” I wonder if the bidders on the “time group 7” bib know they will be four slots from the back of the pack and not six away from the front.

I joked in the earlier post about my plan to get a better number. I said I was thinking about buying a vowel at the front end of the alphabet and one commenter took me to task for even considering it. Certainly there is a fairness question about joining a non-random front-running group if you didn’t earn it and can’t keep up.

But tricking people into believing they are starting in time group “7” instead of wave “X” – the last group – is a much worse offense, in my book.

For today’s discussion, please contrast the moral relativism of (1) transferring randomly generated numbers after the May deadline, (2) tricking people about time groups on eBay and (3) wearing costumes during the Peachtree. What about someone who buys a bib off eBay, has it blown up and uses it as their running costume? Discuss.

22 comments Add your comment

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Love to Run

June 29th, 2010
8:55 am

I think (imo) that folks who run as bandits with absolutely no gumption of ever obtaining a number by any means are the worst offenders… the fee is modest and pays for so much… buck up and pay. If you don’t pay, stay home and keep the beer on ice.


June 29th, 2010
8:58 am

As an avid runner and a race director I can see transfering numbers from both sides. Just keep in mind that most races are planned and executed from start to finish by volunteers. Many of these hard working volumteers do not run and have never even seen a race finish or starting line except as a volunteer. When you change your number you add to the confusion and there workload. That being said, I’ve done it (and be nice to the volunteers)!

As for costumes, I say have a good time so long as you don’t get hurt (step on your tail) and add to the fun without taking anything away.

Lastly, eBay scammers suck!


June 29th, 2010
9:13 am

As a runner, and one who has run the PRR each of the last 11 years, I have a bigger issue with the hundreds (thousands?) of runners with later time groups who wait on the sidewalks past the start line and then jump into the race with the early time groups. I don’t see how people transferring numbers and/or selling numbers on eBay creates any additional work or confusion for the race volunteers, but I do see the confusion and difficulties that “jumpers” and bandits cause to those in the early time groups trying to run a good race!


June 29th, 2010
9:18 am

The numbers and letters are rather confusing this year. One of my co-workers told me how excited she was to be in “time group 3″ this year, not realizing that the number doesn’t really mean anything.

I think people are genuinely confused about the numbers.

As far as eBay goes, I don’t really care if people buy and sell numbers on there. If people are willing to pay $100 for a Peachtree number, let them! I don’t know why you would, considering you will be running under someone elses name and won’t get the results. But, whatever!

To all of those running in costumes, go for it! Just stay out of my way!


June 29th, 2010
9:55 am

When I mentioned “confusion” I was referring to the results. A lot of folks that run races (in addition to the PRR) like to have accurate results of their time and placement. Having a jumper, bandit runner or anyone run that didn’t pay to participate isn’t fair to those that did and takes away from the event.

Lauren Dieterich

June 29th, 2010
9:58 am

I don’t think buying numbers on eBay (or trading numbers) is so bad. Race mgmt has to say it’s against the rules to try and control such a large race… or else things would get severely out of control (give people an inch, they take a mile, or 10k, etc).

Consider this… if you trade up and are running around people way faster than you, that’s not so much different than someone who trained really hard last year for a fast time which earned them a great number… and then they didn’t run much in the interim and are really out of shape right now. Though they earned their spot, they are still gonna be sloooow.

Gen (F22757) Neyland

June 29th, 2010
10:23 am

My favorite all-time Peachtree Road Race quote from Barney Fife : “Once burnt, lesson learnt.”

I’ve been in your shoes Peachtree’s past so I submitted my last years 1:12 PRR slog. Netted me a ‘F’ at least. Last year I hoped for at least the ‘4′ group w/o submitting an eligible 10K time but ended up with ‘6′ group. I too was bummed and figured ‘not this year’…

Second favorite Barney Fife PRR quote : Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

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July 2nd, 2010
9:13 am

And the cheaters who jump in late to have a good clock time.You are just cheating yourself!

2nd Ptree Race

July 2nd, 2010
9:15 am

What I want to know about the costumes, is why did I receive an e-mail encouraging it (from the AJC official Road Race e-mails) if they aren’t allowed? The title of the e-mail was:
AJC Peachtree Road Race Tips
Have You Picked Out Your Race Costume Yet?


July 2nd, 2010
10:15 am

Everyone complaining about people jumping in late “for a better time” — they won’t show up in the results, as they didn’t cross the timing mat at the starting line in order to activate their D-tag. The joke’s on them!


July 2nd, 2010
10:16 am

I’m in group H and my husband is in group N, I can still run with him in his group can’t I? I don’t really care what group I’m in, my time will be my time whether I’m in group A or X. I just don’t want to run “by myself”. Does anyone know if this is still o.k. to run in a later group?

John McCosh

July 2nd, 2010
10:24 am

HI Tiffany – You can move back, just not forward to a better wave position.


July 2nd, 2010
12:53 pm

On one morning, 55k people sweat harder for one goal than any other other time in the year and 150k get up at the crack of dawn to genuinely cheer for total strangers. Unless you are a world-class runner, you will not have a personal best, but so what? It is more fun than should be legal in the middle of a public street, so let it be.
My vote, as someone who takes running seriously, is to adopt the following rules:
If you are going to get a number, wear it with pride or give/sell it (at face value) to someone who will.
If you have a number, start at the start and give it your all….whatever that is….for 6.2 (if you are at WSB without a drop of sweat you just don’t get it).
If you are walking, start later, stay right.
If you are running as a bandit, only do it for the love of the run, jump in at your pace, early in the course, and do not jump right in front of someone.
If your costume will slow you down, start accordingly, but, oh, please start! Your cape, toga, towel, and wig make my run.

Break out the short-shorts, cow bells, mimosas, and body paint, my friends, it’s time for the Peachtree!

Brenda Tidwell

July 2nd, 2010
12:57 pm

Folks, let’s face it, this is NOT a race it is a party. IF you are worried about timing run another race!
Go! Run-walk! Enjoy the 4th of July with your family and friends! Laugh! It is fun!


July 2nd, 2010
8:15 pm

Couldn’t agree more w/ Becky!!!

CCX Runner

July 2nd, 2010
9:51 pm

Regarding the costumes, they certainly are tradition and they are expected and encouraged (mostly through laughter). I have always thought that the reason you get emails and documents that warn against costumes is for the Atlanta Track Club to relinquish liability in case of costume-related injury or heat-stroke.

Can’t wait to run!!

Kristen W

July 3rd, 2010
8:42 am

I still need a number as I thought I wouldn’t be in town this year. What’s the harm of running as a “phantom runner” so to speak if someone else can’t use theirs? Why waste it? Email me if you know anyone who can help me.

Becca in Ellenwood

July 3rd, 2010
10:11 am

I am too frustrated. I have been running this race for over 12 years and my husband 10. Each time we register, my number is always somewhere in the back and he is in the front. He usually starts with me,we are the same age and always finish together. This year I thought since we were submitting times I would get a better place (last year 1:20’s). No luck, my husband is in the H-30’s and I am in the T-69’s , the same as my brother-in-law who has not ran the race in over 5 years. I was tempted not to run at all but I can’t justify Waffle House afterwards, so I run in the name of hashbrowns and eggs. I just didn’t want to start in the heat.

Just Hot


July 3rd, 2010
11:41 am

Need a better system next year. 2010 will be my 30th P’tree RR (age 51). I’ll run it in around ~64 mins. My 82 yo uncle is walking his first P’tree.. with my sister, her 2nd. While I’m extremely excited to have them join us on the 4th… I’m a surprised they drew a better start time than I did. They listed themselves as walking. I think someone/system goofed a little on the random assignments. At least next year parse the entries with runners in front of walkers as they self selected on their applications… Thanks and have fun on the 4th…


July 4th, 2010
1:53 pm

I have no sympathy for you. All you had to do was submit a time. The ATC website clear that if you submitted no time there were no guarantees where you would randomly be put. Quit whining. And next year submit a time.