The 9th annual Georgia Marathon leads runners through some of Atlanta’s beloved neighborhoods, making it a very spectator-friendly race for locals and athlete families. The race kicks off at 7 a.m. on Sunday, March 22, and includes a half and full marathon. Whether you’re cheering on an athlete in the half or full marathon, or you live in the neighborhood and want to know where you can spectate, RootsRated has the guide for the best mile markers to catch the Georgia Marathon. Come hungry, because we’ve highlighted spots to grab coffee and breakfast while you’re waiting.
Start/Finish: Centennial Olympic Park
The race starts and finishes in the epicenter of downtown. The lush sloping field at Centennial Olympic Park provides a good spot for supporters to mark a spot to meet their athlete after the race. For families, don’t worry about scouting your athlete on the course. Set up here with the kids. You’ll still be able to hear music blaring from the finish line, and the area is large enough to easily meet up with your athlete. At 10 a.m., the Skyview Ferris Wheel opens, so reward your athlete with a relaxing spin to the top, where you’ll get a 360-degree view of Midtown and Downtown Atlanta.
Mile 2: Publix on North Avenue
This is the official “Publix Mile” where you can drive and park to cheer on athletes without dealing with the hassle of downtown parking. Runners are only 2 miles in, so you’re bound to see a concentrated grouping of both marathoners and half marathoners. If you choose this spot, arrive no later than 6:45 a.m.
The race runs through the heart of Martin Luther King Jr.’s National Historic Site. Park along Irwin Street just east of Boulevard and walk to the race course on Auburn Avenue. While waiting for your athlete, stand on the south side of the street where MLK’s tomb and the historic fire station are located. If you’re here from 8 to 9 a.m., you can hear Sunday worship music echoing from the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Mile 5.5: Little Five Points
How convenient that mile 5 of the course runs through “Little Five.” While this quirky neighborhood may have closed the bars just a few hours before, people always line the streets to cheer on runners. Grab a coffee at Aurora Coffee on Moreland Avenue to sip as you cheer on your athlete. Street parking is available on Austin or Lake Avenue.
Mile 7: Freedom Parkway
This is the last chance to see both half and full marathoners together. From here, the full marathoners will depart east toward Decatur and half marathoners will head north into Virginia-Highland. Park south fo the parkway on Highland Avenue. If your runner is doing the full marathon, swing by Folk Art for brunch or grab a nutrient-packed juice at Kale Me Crazy before rejoining the spectating at Piedmont Park. For cyclists, simply connect from Freedom Parkway to the Atlanta Beltline Eastside Trail to avoid traffic.
Mile 8 (half marathon): Virginia-Highland
One of Atlanta’s iconic neighborhoods, Virginia-Highland comes at a critical portion of the run for half marathoners. Their legs are beginning to tire, and it’s the last downhill section before some gradual, yet painful hills. Murphy’s is a popular Southern brunch spot, so while you’re waiting for a table, stand on the sidewalk to cheer on runners. The neighborhood is walkable, so park east of Highland Avenue course on Lanier, Virginia or Hudson Avenue.
Mile 13 (full marathon): Downtown Decatur
Half-way through the marathon, Decatur is a perfect cheering spot and a gem for coffee. The course runs along Ponce de Leon Avenue, and you can quickly swing by one of the local coffee shops to grab a snack while waiting. We recommend Java Monkey for a to-go latte. For a front row seat on the course, sit on the patio at Dancing Goats. Their Batdorf & Bronson coffees are roasted here in Atlanta. If you have a little more time, stop in for a diner-style, filling breakfast at Sweet Melissa’s in the Square or Thumb’s Up Diner. You’re in luck; parking is free at all meters on Sundays.
Mile 16: Emory University
The sloping downhill section by Emory University means your runner will be in good form and they’ll welcome a cheering section. The race leads through Emory Village, which has a few options for breakfast. Stay local and stop in to the Tavern at Ink & Elm for a Batdorf & Bronson coffee and giant cinnamon roll. At Rise & Dine, you may have to wait but the sweet potato or Nutella pancakes are worth it.
Mile 9 (half) & 21.5 (full): Piedmont Park
Locals in the area tend to use Piedmont Park as their spectating grounds, since it is centrally located to the Atlanta Beltline, the Highlands, and Midtown. Not only is this the tail end of the race, but runners will begin a steady climb that doesn’t stop until after they cross Peachtree Street. If you’re just stopping by to spectate, bring your pup and visit the dog park after you cheer on the runners.
Mile 11 (half) & 24 (full): Georgia Tech
In the final stretch before the finish, runners follow a sloping downhill on Techwood Drive, but then the last two miles are a steady uphill along Marietta Street. Runners will need one last shout of inspiration before the end of their race. You most likely won’t be able to catch your runner’s finish from here unless you brought a bike, in which case the roads are very cyclist-friendly. Make your decision to cheer here or the finish line.
Regardless of where you end up cheering on your athlete, you’ll have plenty of options to grab coffee and breakfast for yourself and a to-go order for your athlete. They’ll be grateful for a filling treat after the race, and you’ll be glad you explored some of Atlanta’s iconic neighborhoods.