Peachtree Road Race: 10 Things Runners Need to Know

Ready to run the world’s biggest 10K this 4th of July? Here’s 10 things to know before you lace up and head to the starting line at the Peachtree this Friday.


Thousands of runners make their way through Midtown Atlanta at the Peachtree Road Race. (Photo by Stephen Harlan/flickr)

1) Be prepared to wait a while for the race to start.

Unless you registered with a fast finishing time that places you in one of the earliest-to-start groups, it’s likely that you’re going to be hanging out at the starting line for 30 to 45 minutes or more after the official start of the race at 7:30 AM.

Because the Peachtree hosts so many runners — around 60,000 every year — a wave start is the only way to get so many people across the starting line in an organized way. Each wave includes hundreds of runners who start roughly 5 minutes apart, beginning with the first group at 7:30 AM and the last group at 9:05 AM.

For 2014, there are 21 “wave” groups. You can find out all about them at the Peachtree’s official site here.

2) It’s gonna be hot.

Sunny and 88 degrees. That’s the National Weather Service forecast for Atlanta for this Friday, July 4, but the temperature actually won’t rise that high until the early to mid-afternoon.

What will it be like around the time when most runners leave the starting line, between 7:30 AM and 9:00 AM? Probably somewhere in the mid-60s to the low-70s, and it’ll keep rising as you run the race.

3) The race follows a point-to-point course.

Here’s what the race route — which starts at Lenox Square Mall in Buckhead and finishes at Piedmont Park in Midtown — looks like:

4) That’s why the best way to get to the starting line is…

If you live in or near Buckhead, the best way to get to the starting line is to have a friend/spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend drive you to the start and drop you off.

If you live in Midtown or areas further out, hands down take MARTA (Atlanta’s subway train system) to the Lenox Square station, and then walk the 2 to 3 blocks from there to the race starting line.

5) And MARTA is the best way to get home.

After you finish the race, you’re going to be milling around Piedmont Park for a while, just soaking it all in. You’ll get your official race t-shirt and some post-race refreshments — or a beer (or two, or three) at the Park Tavern, which is right on the park at the corner of 10th and Monroe.

When you’re done, it’s just a few blocks’ walk to the Midtown MARTA station, which lies at 41 10th Street, across the street from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta:

6) “Cardiac Hill” gets its name for a reason.

After following a gentle downhill for most of the first three miles, the race begins a steep climb around the mile 3 marker, rising about 200 feet over the next 3/4 of a mile — right in front of Piedmont Hospital.

There’s more uphill stretches, especially along Peachtree through Midtown, but the course finally levels out once you reach 14th Street. After that, it’s a slightly downhill jog with a left turn on 10th to head into Piedmont Park for the finish line.

7) Don’t eat bear claws during the race.

At my first Peachtree Road Race back in the mid-1990s, I’d heard stories of runners eating and drinking all sorts of crazy stuff during the race, like downing beers in quick stops through the bars in Buckhead, etc.

So when I saw a baker standing outside the Publix supermarket (between about miles 1 and 2) handing out bear claw pastries, I decided “why not?”

Bad call, it turned out — especially when you’ve got 5 more miles to run!

8) Do drink water at every station.

Don’t be a hero at this race. Atlanta on the 4th of July is virtually guaranteed to be hotter and more humid than at most any other time of the year, which means you need to be careful when you’re out there exerting yourself.

Water stops will be located every mile along the course, so get a drink at every one and stop and walk for a while if you need to. Thousands of your fellow participants are going to be doing the same thing. Don’t end up like the handful of runners who have died at the Peachtree.

9) Don’t be a “Peachtree Nazi.”

There’s going to be roughly 60,000 people on Peachtree during the race, and some 200,000 lining the streets as you run the 10 kilometers between Lenox and Piedmont Park. That means unless you’re in one of the first waves at the start, you’re not going to be setting any personal record times.

Invariably, there are runners in the later groups who get annoyed with the slow pace of most participants, the walkers in the middle of the road, and they’re not afraid to let everyone know. Here’s a tip: Don’t be one of those runners. Be sweet, have fun, and let everyone else enjoy the race too.

10) It’s an awesome race, so have a blast.

The Peachtree is truly one of the best things Atlanta, a city once described as “dedicated to the worship of everything new,” has going for it. Everyone’s in a great mood, it’s a fun course, and there’s thousands of people on the streets slapping your hand and cheering you on.

Where else in life do you get to experience that?

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