If you’re looking for a reminder as to why running can be such a fantastic way to stay in shape, build a community or challenge your personal self, look no further than Peachtree Road on a warm Fourth of July morning. In a few short days, nearly 60,000 of those people will hit the streets for 6.2 miles of Atlanta’s finest heat, hills and humidity, but what makes the Peachtree Road Race so special is so much more.
Maybe I have a sentimental spot because this is the race that introduced me to running. I crossed six miles for the first time on this course only three years ago.
Maybe it’s because no where else will you pass people that range in age from just barely into double digits, to those who will soon see the light of three numbers to their age. Or spot a group who takes this whole thing a little less seriously, by cheering beers and shots for every mile … while running.
Maybe it’s the unforgettable flag at the starting line or waking up to the roar of helicopters overhead P’s parents’ house just before dawn. Or the group of Marines carrying full gear in the scorching heat.
The first mile seems to fly by and before you know it, you’re rounding mile number two where you’re greeted by a flicker of holy water from the Cathedral of Saint Phillip. Mile three brings the assent up cardiac hill, and even though I’ve lived along this thoroughfare for nearly three years, it never seems to get any easier. The furbus greets you at mile five, without whom getting past the Brookwood split would be the hottest, most sun drenched and draining leg of the race. And onward to midtown, where I’ve logged more miles in the rain, sun and even on occasion snow, than likely any other one place in this city.
The Peachtree Road Race holds quite a few sentimental trophies (or coveted t-shirts) near my heart and I know I’m not alone in the feeling. In three days, I’ll be back at the starting line, ready to add 6.2 more miles to my running relationship. And I’ll finish it along with 60,000 other people, who I hope uncover the same excitement in celebrating what makes running, Atlanta and our country great every step of the way.