Like a lot of our blog readers out there (judging from the comments), my fellow blogger Yvonne is an AJC Peachtree Road Race rookie. I’ve run the race a few times – somewhere around 10 – so I will attempt to answer some of the questions she had. From the comments, I know there are a lot of people running for the first time. Make sure you enjoy the run. I hope this helps and anyone else that has questions (or answers), please pass them along.
–How crowded is it — really? Does it make you want to turn right around and go home?
I’ve never turned around and gone home. But it’s certainly a lot of people, something I’ve found to be commonplace at a lot of runs in Atlanta. Spending the past three years in Jackson, Tenn., I ran in races with no more than 100 people and was just about guaranteed to finish in the top three in my age group. That’s not the case here.
Be prepared to wait in long porta-potty lines pre-race or to make your own potty. For the first half-mile or so your pace will likely be dictated by those around you, but things will spread out. There will always be people around, but it’s not a big issue once you get going. Early though, be careful because people will be trying to get around you, and sometimes those people aren’t so nice. Also watch out by the Moe’s on the left in the first mile. They throw t-shirts to the runners and lots of people like to stop in the road to try to get one. Same thing if Chick-fil-A is out giving away freebies.
–Where are the best places along the course to look for food?
I’ve never found much consistency in the food being given out. Some spectators will have some things, and may offer you something like a donut, or if you’re lucky, a beer. But if you’re really looking, I am sure you can find something to eat, it’s just hit-or-miss. The Publix in Buckhead may be handing some things out, and there may be some smoothies being given away.
–What is running Heartbreak Hill like?
It’s tough. Just about the first three miles of the race are downhill so you’re cruising and are about to finish a solid first 5K. You cross Peachtree Creek (the low point of the course, a drop of 180 feet from the start), and the course turns uphill quick. The thing that always gets me about the hill is that it’s two hills with no real break. You make it halfway up then you still have to keep climbing to pass Piedmont Hospital. In about a half-mile, you climb 129 feet. There will be a huge water stop at the top, in front of the hospital. A lot of people also get inspiration from the Shepherd Center patients out on the sidewalk cheering. What I remember is watching the Atlanta population clock change. Following a quick break and the crossing of I-85 at the four-mile mark, the course turns uphill again. Course map/elevation profile here.
–Are there enough water stations along the route, in your opinion?
There is plenty of water. Every mile there are huge water stops on both sides of the road, including at Piedmont Hospital at the top of Heartbreak Hill. There is plenty of water at the start, too, and if you’re still thirsty, look for “rouge” tents/tables handing out more. Plus there will be people handing out ice cubes, people shooting Super Soakers, holy water and fire hydrants will be set up as cooling sprays.
–Have you been to the Expo? What’s it like?
I went one year when it was at a hotel, and don’t remember much. I think it was 2002 because I have a Nike poster from that year with the line “So hot even the pavement runs.” Anyone want to help me out with this one?
–What’s your favorite part of the race?
I have never put much thought into this. The Peachtree has always just been something that I’ve done because the rest of my family does it, too. Realizing it now, waking up, carpooling to the start and beginning the race with my family each year is a favorite part. So is the atmosphere. All the people running, all the people on the sides of the roads, all the people everywhere. There’s nothing like it. But for me, for some reason, it’s definitely not the shirt, something I wear just once.
–How strict are they about the “no iPod/headphones” rule?
No worries. No one will confiscate your iPod or headphones, and plenty of people will be wearing them. But you will be missing a part of the race by wearing them. How will you be able to eaves drop on those around you (just kidding)? The sounds running down Peachtree are a big part of the race. This is one few times a year you will run with a huge crowd on the side of the road, cheering you on. And you will be in a huge pack. Fellow runners will be encouraging you, and being able to hear the people around you also helps keep you safe. Bands and sound systems will be blaring out music (so there is no need for the iPod). And if your ears are filled with earbuds, how will you be able to hear people yelling at those jumping in a half-mile or mile into the race.
A bonus feature: The AJC put together some maps of where the AJC Peachtree runners are coming from. Check it out.