This is my 5th summer here in Atlanta, and despite the hype, I’ve always avoided this race. Battling a crowd of 60,000 other runners sounds awful. Racing a 10k in steamy July weather sounds miserable. Combine the two, and well, that’s just inhumane…..
The hype finally got the best of me, and I registered for it back in March. I knew Mr. Blondie was guaranteed to be home for the 4th of July, and since there’s no telling what next year’s schedule will bring, this was the year to cross it off my bucket list.
I tossed and turned in bed until about midnight before the race. I wasn’t even thinking about the running part, I was anxious about the logistics of getting there. I also needed to be back home in time to catch a noon flight to NY. BBQ’ing and fireworks were on the evening agenda. No pressure or anything.
The Peachtree Road Race is a point-to-point race. They recommend parking in Midtown and taking the subway to the startling line at Lenox Mall. I was concerned about finding parking near the recommended MARTA stations. I generally feel safe in Atlanta, but parking in some creepy side-street lot by myself at 5:15am didn’t seem like prudent idea. Instead, I decided to go a couple miles further downtown, and got a parking spot right near the entrance of that MARTA station. I was really glad about how that worked out.
The train was pretty empty at that point and I took a seat. It didn’t take long for the people watching to start getting good. A flood of people entered the train at the next stop, including a couple women in pigtails and string bikinis (seriously, they were having a difficult time finding enough fabric to pin their numbers on), and a boisterous group of teenagers covered from head-to-toe in red, white, and blue body paint.
Another grave issue I’d worried over was having enough time to make a pit stop before the race, but the worry was for not. The first thing I noticed as I got close to the starting area was a sea of port-o-pots with no lines at all. Kudos to the Atlanta Track Club. They sure know what they’re doing!
Even better, I didn’t have to resort to using one. Get this, the Starbucks just across from the starting line was open and practically empty. I greatly overestimated how long it was going to take to get to the starting line. I had plenty of time to kill, so I hung out there for about an hour, used their wi-fi , and a real bathroom before heading to the starting line. As a 4th of July promotion they were even handing out free tall coffees. Talk about some sweet VIP accommodations ;)
Making my way into the corral was intimidating. The runners surrounding me looked like speedsters who meant business. I had only made it into the sub-seed corral by the skin of my teeth, so I knew my place…..all the way in the very back of the corral.
Otherwise it felt like any ol’ race. The race started at 7:30, and it only took about 20 seconds after the gun went off before I crossed the starting mat. From that vantage point, you really don’t get a feel for the magnitude of the event.
My performance was nothing noteworthy. Official gun time, 45:45. It felt as steamy and miserable as I imagined it would be.
Half marathon pace seemed like a reasonable expectation for the day. According to my watch I averaged 7:12/mi which was in my target range. It felt considerably harder than tempo pace however, and I started feeling a bit dizzy halfway through. From mile 3 onward, I was walking through every water stop. That’s something uncharacteristic of me to do, but did I mention it was friggin’ hot?!
A highlight of the race was finally meeting Shelby. We’ve “known” each other online for a few years now. Somewhere around the start of the second mile I spotted her in the crowd, and rolled up next to her to say hi. Ok, I guess that sounds kind of internet stalkerish, but whatever. I’d seen enough pictures on her blog to recognize her, and I knew we were aiming for a similar finish time. I also bumped into a fellow Team MARATHON Bar member a little later on. It’s a small world after all……
After I crossed the finish line I grabbed a bottle of water and collected my t-shirt. I spent about 15 minutes soaking up the scene in Piedmont Park, then started jogging the 2 miles back to my car.
Easy peasy. I was walking through my front door by 9:30. We made that flight, no problem, and made it to NY in time to join the party.
I couldn’t have asked for a better orchestrated event (minus the sweltering temps).
Have you ever gotten yourself anxious over something and it defied your expectations?