60,000 runners. 6.2 miles. 2 epic streets. America’s Independence Day. Atlanta’s largest race. Best parade race ever.
The Peachtree Road Race is one of the largest 10ks in the world, and Atlanta holds the honors of hosting the event, which celebrates its 45th anniversary this year. Atlanta’s running culture needed a signature event, and before a day of barbecues and fireworks, there’s no better way to start the day. Packs of runners populate the Buckhead and Midtown stretch of Atlanta’s popular Peachtree Street and end in Piedmont Park after a 400-meter downhill. Here, we share some tips from the pros on how to run your best possible Peachtree Road Race.
Because Peachtree is a hilly course, it’s wise to try to incorporate some hills into your workouts. This can involve doing some short hill repeats at the end of a run to focus on good form while running uphill, or simply finding a nice hilly course to get comfortable with changes in elevation. I also find that doing some tempo runs (runs of 3-5 miles done at a pace slightly slower than your goal race pace) help prepare you well to race successfully at the 10k distance. We find that doing your runs at around the same time of day that you’ll be racing is also a good policy. It’s wise to try to have your training mimic the race conditions as closely as possible.
—Wil Cramer, West Stride
Practice on the course as often as you can. If you train hard on the hills, you can take it “slow” up the hills in the race. That way you have enough energy to take a great photo on 10th Street at at the finish line.
—Tess Sobomehin, RunningNerds
The chart below shows the elevation throughout the race. The first half of the race is almost entirely downhill. On the second half of the race, you’ll conquer a series of “steps” up in elevation. Run each half differently.
The First Half
Mile 3 should be your fastest mile because it is all downhill. Enjoy every moment and every step.
You should get out slightly aggressive so as to not get trampled to death. After the first quarter mile you should settle into a decent pace. The first mile should be run only slightly faster than goal pace because it is pretty much flat.
—Kevin Graham, Phidippides
For first-time Peachtree runners, this is not a record 10k course due to number of people and the difficult back half, so don’t compare it to other races. Get a sense of where everyone is around you, but don’t play it too conservatively. At some point you have to be brave enough to gain speed down the hill and take the chance that you have enough in the engine that you can keep it together in the back half on the hills.
—Mike Cosentino, owner of Big Peach Running Co.
Go out very conservatively at the start of Peachtree. Because there are so many people and so much excitement at the start, it’s very easy to get pulled along through the first few miles at a pace that’s faster than what one should be running. The first couple miles should feel a little easier than you think; you’ll feel it plenty by the end.
The Second Half
Don’t try to run the same pace for both parts because the two are completely different courses. Go in and know you’ll get challenged from Peachtree Battle onward. When you make the right on 10th Street, many runners expect a downhill, but you’ve still got a gradual uphill and 1,000 meters until the finish. The photographer’s canopy is not the finish line! You still have another 100 yards.
Just realize that after Cardiac Hill you still have two more hills before you have flat and down hill. If you have run the first half of the race correctly you should be able to “surge” up this hilly section. Most of the time you simply maintain your pace, not actually speed up. This is a good thing, due to the fact that most slow down during the section.
Navigating the Crowds
Unless you’re sub-seeded, you will be weaving through runners the whole race. Be conscious if you’re pushing past others—people may think you’re rude.
Peachtree can be crazy crowded, especially at the start. I think it’s important to relax and let the crowd pull you along initially, keeping your eyes up and taking advantage of openings to move up in the crowd as they become available. It can be helpful to pick out runners in front of you to try and catch, or maintain pace. Remember that each individual running Peachtree has his or her own goals and motivations for running and no one wants to purposefully hinder another runner’s performance.
The Final Word
The fact that Peachtree is on a national holiday gives the race a great backdrop. It’s a great way to get the day started before heading off to barbecues and fireworks. Peachtree Street is one of the busiest non-interstate routes, and this is the one morning that the city ensures nothing but pedestrians line the entire stretch from Buckhead to Midtown.
Use the crowd as motivation and work with your fellow runners to have a successful Peachtree experience. There’s a reason Peachtree is the biggest road race in the United States. It’s a giant, moving party down Peachtree Street with throngs of supporters who only want to see runners enjoying themselves and being successful. Encourage other runners who might be struggling and use your fellow runners who are having good days as motivation to keep pushing.