The AJC Peachtree’s growing rival race

I was there. Interning in Denver in 2006, I missed the AJC Peachtree but got my holiday 10K fix running the Memorial Day BolderBoulder race. (Flickr photo by: scubadive67)

I was there. Interning in Denver in 2006, I missed the AJC Peachtree but got my holiday 10K fix running the Memorial Day BolderBoulder race. (Flickr photo by: scubadive67)

Like any good sports franchise or college team, the AJC Peachtree Road Race has a rival. But it’s not Yankee-Red Sox or Alabama-Auburn ugly between the Peachtree and the BolderBoulder. Instead the Peachtree and the other huge, holiday 10K complete with qualifying times, staring corrals, costumed patrons, beer along the side of the road, and oh yes, a whole lot of runners appear to get along. In the past, Peachtree race director Tracey Russell has headed to Boulder to observe the race, and the two big events share ideas. But there are still bragging rights on the line.

Almost 55,000 people took part in the BolderBoulder on Memorial Day including 53 listing a Georgia city as a hometown as that race continues to grow. The Peachtree will have 60,000 or so this year after the field was increased by 5,000. Was the Peachtree’s move to ensure it remained the bigger race? When the additional numbers for the Peachtree was announced, Russell said no.

Five years ago, the BolderBoulder was my summer holiday 10K, not the Peachtree.  I was interning in Denver, and needed to fill my July 4 void.

Some memories from my sojourn out west five years ago:

  • I didn’t have much time to train heading out west in mid-May, but I struggled running in the altitude my first few weeks out there.
  • Getting a number wasn’t/isn’t such a big deal. Supply and demand meet, and they actually take walk-up signups on race day. (Great story this year is that so many showed up this year on race day needing to sign up, they let them run on the honor system). There were many places to sign up over an extended period of time, and you could qualify to start up front in a number of ways including a two-mile treadmill time trial. You could pick up your number at a local running store (no trek to the expo or expensive shipping fee).
  • There were tons of corrals, but things at the start weren’t so formal. I don’t remember all of the fencing being put up and so many volunteers guarding gates. People just seemed to be hanging out in the big mall parking lot near the start. Things were so spread out because there were more than 60 waves taking more than two hours to start. Each leaves  one-two minutes apart. Runners seemed to honor their correct group and start in the right spot.
  • The course was a mix going through commercial areas and neighborhoods, I remember one mileage sign/clock just about in someone’s front yard. How would you like 55,000 people running down your street.
  • The finish was on the University of Colorado’s football field, but they covered all the grass with plastic tile. They, too, appear to have trouble with grass at the end (that year the Peachtree didn’t end at Piedmont because of the grass was tough). Still, you got to finish with a big crowd watching from the stands.
  • Not only did you get a post-race lunch, you got a post-race beer.
  • The pros run last after most have finished as a part of a team challenge.

How about my take and what the AJC Peachtree can take from the BolderBoulder…

(Flickr pboulder lunchboxhoto by: Marcin Wichary)

I liked the feeling surrounding the race, being more laid back and traversing the town including through residential neighborhoods, although I know both would be tough to replicate here. There still aren’t enough numbers to meet demand in Atlanta, people wouldn’t be so honest to line up in their correct spot (especially considering all those that cheat by jumping in past the start) and the Peachtree course isn’t changing I wouldn’t think. Spreading out people at the start in Atlanta, though, would certainly be a good idea.

The post-race food could certainly be improved in Atlanta. A small lunch and a beer would be amazing although at least they still give out Cokes and Powerades following the Peachtree. Food after other big events in Atlanta has been lacking (see the Publix marathon/half-marathon with no Coke or Powerade plus they ran out of a lot of food and the Atlanta half-marathon where there are reports they no longer give out Snickers afterwards).

The best idea to be borrowed from the BolderBoulder is the ColderBoulder. About six months after the big 10K, the BolderBoulder people put on invitational, seeded 5Ks for finishers of the 10K. Races are seeded by 10K finishing time from 40 minutes to 64 minutes at two-minute intervals, meaning there 12 races starting 10 minutes apart plus an open race. Instead of racing everyone, you race people your own speed, giving a lot of people the chance to win a race. It’s a great idea, one that can motivate people to train for the summer 10K plus keep them going to run a big race again in six months. And I have to think that for just about everyone that trains properly, a 64-minute finish in the Peachtree is doable (let me know if I am wrong). It’s a unique concept that would add to the July 4 experience plus give Atlanta another Peachtree. It’s an idea I’d like to see copied here.

I know people have ideas on how to make Peachtree better. What are some of yours?

4 comments Add your comment

Sharon

June 11th, 2011
5:08 am

I ran BolderBoulder this year and while it has it’s good points it doesn’t compare to the Peachtree. It is definitely more laid back but the crowd support was minimal until we got near the stadium. That was the most disappointing part of the whole race. The lunches and the beer at the end were a great treat, Peachtree would do well to emulate that part. I’ll take the Peachtree over Bolder any day!

reebok

June 13th, 2011
11:05 am

the peachtree used to have beer at the finish…one per person…but a couple of my running friends don’t like beer, so i normally got 2-3…it was awesome…don’t know why they stopped that tradition…

Mike Lum

June 13th, 2011
11:51 am

Food has improved after the Peachtree, over the past few years. Now there is free ice cream and energy bars. Matt, your post is long on memories and short on details. Runners “seemed to honor their correct group” hardly sounds like a study was done on the topic. The cheaters that jump in here in Atlanta are a problem, but only constitute a tiny percentage of the total. Two years ago the Peachtree start was spread out, with much success. If the 60,000 runners didn’t want to pick up numbers at the expo or pay the expensive shipping fee, numberless runners would happily take their place…part of the supply and demand you talk about.

I’m sure both races have their strengths and weaknesses. Peachtree gets so many novis/once-a-year runners/walkers (great for them, but it makes for a lousier race when they start up front and walk on the left). The last mile of the Peachtree used to flow through Piedmont Park’s one lane road. The trees and crowd were great, but the backup of runners weren’t. To each his own!

Mike

June 14th, 2011
4:14 pm

The year the race ended at the Civic Center was the worst. Not only was the distance to the finish line closer to 6.5 miles, but turning off 10th street there was a hill, then getting to the water there was another hill, then getting your t-shirt was another hill.