Thinking of a hot road race on a snowy evening

Looking at the icy scene at Piedmont Park in mid-January, I wasn’t giving much thought to July 4th. But while most of us coped with snow and ice, organizers of the AJC Peachtree Road Race announced big changes for the 6.2 mile trek that’s about six months and a summer sizzle away.

SNOWY PARK

The race has seen a lot of change since 1979 when I first ran it. Over the years it added many more runners, shifted finish lines – (current one pictured here) – and used new technology.
The switch to online registration in 2008 hasn’t cost me a spot in the field (yet). But I felt more confident I would make the field when I mailed an AJC registration form at the post office the Monday after the paper printed it. I’ve made it into 21 Peachtrees, mostly by being an early bird.
Last year I was more nervous than ever about making it into the field. I was one of thousands of people who jumped online at 1 p.m. on March 21, 2010 to sign up for the Peachtree. Web registration bogged down, even shut down for a while. I was able to register after an hour or so. But in my haste I neglected to enter my (slow) time from the 2009 Peachtree. Instead of qualifying for the “K” time wave, I wound up with the randomly assigned “X” – the back of the pack.
This year I’ll be paying closer attention. That shouldn’t be too hard, since I’m reprising last year’s role as voice-of-the-average-runner blogger for ajc.com’s Peachtree Road Race page.
The biggest change for the 2011 Peachtree is a new lottery system to select the race field. The lottery registration process will be stretched over ten days. So there won’t be a reason for thousands of us to hit the website at the same moment. You can wake up at 5 a.m. March 5th to be among the first to register. But I know of at least one person who will sleep in that Saturday.
I winced a bit when I read about the lottery, since that introduces a new element of chance that I won’t make the cut. I unwinced when I saw there is “special consideration” for old runners like me who have ten or more Peachtree shirts in the in the trophy case. Still, the only guarantee of a racing bib is for members of the Atlanta Track Club. Membership costs $35 at the individual level.
Expanding the field from 55,000 runners to 60,000 seems like a good thing. Every year there are stories of people who try to register but are shut out. That will probably still happen as long as physical constraints of the course limit the number of runners. The wave system introduced last year seemed to space time groups well and the race felt less congested, so a few thousand more might be OK.
Also new in 2011, up to ten people can enter the lottery as a group. I prefer to run the Peachtree in solitary suffering. But I often hear of families lamenting that they’ve been torn asunder by time groups.
To sum up my take: Lottery, a little unsettling because it puts my 21-year Peachtree streak at risk, but understandable; Expansion, good; Group running, good.
What’s your take? Do you think these changes are good for the race overall? How will they affect you?

5 comments Add your comment

RunninClear

January 11th, 2011
7:34 pm

Wish there was a guarantee for 5 year vets!! This will be my sixth. The more the merrier. Peachtree needs to stay the biggest!

NativeAtlantan

January 11th, 2011
9:33 pm

Sounds like some good, positive changes. More good than bad. With the new start wave format last year, it makes sense to offer up the race to more people! The lottery will not be a welcomed change, but it probably the most fair.

2011 will by my 20th Peachtree in a row. Can’t wait.

Dennis Murray

January 12th, 2011
9:27 am

Would be nice if there were some enhanced consideration for people who run races year-round and work on qualifying times for the Peachtree.

Otherwise, I might just let it be just another 10k.

Pete Van Weird

January 12th, 2011
10:39 am

Hey, great! Finally all the jog nazis have their way!! Wonder what the local Atlanta hotels, bars, and bistros think? Restriction. This was not the idea of the race in the first place

early bird flown the coop

January 12th, 2011
12:08 pm

Time was if you put forth effort and got up Saturday morning to find a Sunday edition of the paper, fill out the form, write your check –you knew you were in. For the last couple of years with on-line registration it meant logging in timely and filling out the application.

Now it doesn’t matter, your lumped in with everyone else –even if you submit your on-line application within the first hour of open registration and have run 20 Peachtree’s, by way of lottery you could lose out to a first-timer who registered 15 minutes prior to closing.

I suppose an Atlanta Track Club membership is the way around this. Hmmm, wonder who’s idea it was to change things up …the ATC maybe!?