The AJC Peachtree Road Race is approaching, and you need nice places to train. There’s no better place to start than with Atlanta’s PATHs, a trail system that travels throughout metro Atlanta. Over the next few weeks leading up to July 4, we take a look at the miles of paved paths that form the PATH trail system and tell you what you need to know about using them to get ready. For more information on the PATH Foundation and to check out all the PATH trails in metro Atlanta, visit pathfoundation.org.
Location: Between Dunwoody, Chamblee and Brookhaven, the PATH runs from Murphy Candler Park through Blackburn Park to Durden Drive (MAP)
Parking: At Murphy Candler Park, the closest lot to the trail is at the corner of West Nancy Creek Drive and Candler Lake West, and there are other lots at the park including near the pool. Be warned that the parking can be very busy when youth sports games are taking place. At the other end of the trail, parking is available in Blackburn Park off both Ashford Dunwoody Road and Donaldson Drive. Blackburn Park also hosts a variety of activities that might draw crowds.
About the PATH: It’s an approximately two-mile long point-to-point trail that travels along neighborhood roads, a busy Ashford Dunwoody for a stretch and through Blackburn Park by the fields, tennis center and a small wooded area.
The area/what you’ll see: Starting from Nancy Creek, the PATH is a sidewalk along the road, including for about two-thirds of a mile along a busy stretch of Ashford Dunwoody Road. Once in Blackburn Park, the sidewalk travels by the park’s fields, tennis center and through some wooded areas. Once through the park, the turn-around is in a half-built development. The real fun is in Blackburn Park. Depending on the day, you might see a tennis match, a kickball game or league softball. Maybe, there will be a cricket tournament. Or people will be hanging from trees. I’ve been told on some weekends, the park hosts LARPing – that’s Live Action Role Playing. Where else can you run and have the potential to see all of that?
Hills: Ashford Dunwoody is one big hill – primarily going up as you travel south from Nancy Creek to Blackburn. The rest of the trail isn’t too bad, and if you go out-and-back starting at Murphy Candler, the long downhill is nice as you are about to finish up.
AJC Peachtree Road Race practice: To get to six miles, start at Murphy Candler and run the PATH to Durden Drive and then turn right to reach Johnson Ferry Road (this will add about a quarter-mile to the trail. When you get back to Murphy Candler, run one lap on the dirt/sidewalk trail around the lake (it begins in the lot at the corner of West Nancy Creek Drive and Candler Lake West), which should get you to about 10K. (Each loop around the lake and through the woods is between 1.5-1.6 miles).
Things around the trail: At Murphy Candler Park: A lake with a trail around it, a pool, tennis courts, playground, picnic areas and grills and many youth sports fields. At Blackburn Park: A tennis center, covered pavilion, open and softball fields. The Cowart Family/Ashford Dunwoody YMCA is along the PATH on Ashford Dunwoody.
Where to eat post-run: You can go around the world at Old Five Points near Blackburn Park where Johnson Ferry and Ashford Dunwoody meet. On Thursday’s there is a farmers’ market in the Old Five Points parking lot. To cool off, there is a Rita’s Italian Ice on Ashford Dunwoody. And Corner Pizza has one of my all-time favorite drink specials – the bucket of Champaign for $10. That’s a 6-pack of tall boy Miller High Lifes (Plug: A sister beer, Miller 64 is a race sponsor) to go along with some pretty good pizza and salads. It’s hot now, so if you need a gallon of chocolate milk or want a sub, there is also a Publix at the corner. If you’re near Murphy Candler, head north on Ashford Dunwoody, and there’s just about anything you could ever want to eat near Perimeter Mall.
Events: Movement Towards A Cure for Brain Tumors 5K and 2.5K untimed run/walk at Blackburn Park.
My take: After driving the Ashford Dunwoody stretch of the trail every day to work, I didn’t think I would like this PATH. All I knew was that it contained a big hill and ran along a busy street. I was wrong. After running it for the first time, I went back for another go at it. The portion through Blackburn Park is very nice, the uphill segments are good for you, and if you start at Murphy Candler, you can run a very nice negative split taking advantage of the downhills. My last time on the PATH, my fourth mile was quicker than my first and my third mile bested my second. According to my Garmin, the high point of the run is near the turnaround at Durden Drive. I also enjoy the Murphy Candler Lake loop when I am in the mood for something different. But be careful – see here and here.