The name Jeff Galloway strikes a reverent chord in the running community. As a 1972 U.S. Olympian, author of several running books and creator of the iconic Run-Walk-Run method, Galloway has broadened the scope of running to more than 350,000 runners who have participated in his training programs, and to thousands of others who have followed his running career.
The Atlanta running community feels a strong tie to Galloway, who has built up the running empire in the city, including the world’s first specialty running store, Phidippides. Last December, Galloway announced his inaugural Jeff Galloway 13.1, held in Atlanta on December 14, 2014.
“For more than 20 years, I’ve been asked to host a signature race,” said Galloway. “As my training program has expanded and the Run-Walk-Run community has grown, it became important to me to hold a run/walk friendly race in my hometown.”
Galloway’s popular training method has been implemented in more than 100 cities and overseas in countries such as Israel, Germany, Italy, and England.
“I’m blamed- in some cases good and some cases bad- for bringing people, who never had a chance to do these races when they had to run nonstop, into the sport of running.”
Galloway wanted his first endeavor to have the best possible scenario for the runners. He chose December because cool weather is optimal for faster race times. And much how Atlanta is notorious for bad traffic, race courses in the city are characteristically known for being hilly.
Galloway worked hard to develop a “runner friendly”race course that highlights some of the city’s historical landmarks. Runners pass by the Margaret Mitchell house, travel parallel to the M.L.K. historical site, and wind through the Freedom Parkway Trail by the Carter Center. The 13.1-mile route is one of the only Intown races that incorporates the Beltline’s Eastside Trail into the course.
The focus of the race is the finish at Piedmont Park.
“We really wanted to show off Piedmont Park to our out-of-town racers,” said Galloway, who expects that nearly every state will be represented at the race. “That’s why the final two miles run through the park.” The race also benefits the Piedmont Park Conservancy, a non-profit that preserves the park, known as Atlanta’s most visited green space.
But why the 13.1 distance? Galloway was torn between the half and full marathon distance, particularly after the cancellation of the Atlanta Marathon in early 2014.
“It tugged at my heart with that race’s cancellation,” said Galloway, who was the first winner of the race at its original running in 1963. “It was also my first marathon distance, and since then I’ve completed more than 193 marathons. To have raced my first in my hometown and win was especially powerful to me.”
However, the half-marathon distance was settled on for logistical reasons. Galloway knew that a full marathon ties up traffic, and in the shopping season he opted for a rolling course so that traffic could flow freely during the race.
The Jeff Galloway 13.1 should draw in more than 3,000 runners to participate, including international runners from his groups in Israel and England. The race expo will include renowned speakers including Bill Rodgers, Bart Yasso, and Bennett Cohen. Of course Galloway himself will be speaking at the expo and leading one of his Running Schools.
Galloway said the interest was tremendous, although many runners couldn't make the date this year, which is why there is an option to complete a virtual half marathonby March 1. He says next year’s race already has more than 1,000 runners interested in racing.
In true form to Galloway’s running program, all pacers for the 13.1 implement the run-walk-run method for their groups, with finish times ranging from 1:30 to 4:30.
Galloway will be at the finish line greeting every runner with a medal and photo opportunity.
“A 13.1 changes people’s lives. I receive around 100 emails per day hearing success stories, and this weekend supports and promotes fitness, camaraderie and education for runners.”