1. Plan time for the expo. It’s huge. 60,000 runners do the Peachtree, and if people bring friends to the expo well… It’s big. It’s also got some of the greatest local and national vendors exhibiting. Enjoy great deals and try new things. Plus there are some great speakers lined up, too. It’s really another part of the event, and fun, so take time to experience it. (I’ll be at the Ragnar booth Tuesday afternoon, so pop by and say hello!)
2. Take MARTA to the race. Yes, even you, transit-phobes. Just embrace it. MARTA is the best option for getting to and from the race. It’s one of the reasons the race flows so smoothly on the Fourth. Just check the online schedules so you know when the trains will be at your station of choice. And know that the further north you are, the easier it will be to get on the train. They fill up as you get closer to Lenox.
3. Get your MARTA card at the expo. Take cash to the expo and get your card there so you’re not the chump who misses your start corral because you were in line getting a card at the station. In the past the booth at the expo has taken cash only, so there’s that.
4. Start hydrating, like, yesterday. It’s Atlanta. It’s summer. Just living takes a lot out of you. There’s no shame in drinking water like it’s your job. I go through inordinate amounts of Nuun this time of year, and I’m done apologizing for it. Drink, drink, and when you think you can’t drink anymore, drink some more! Take a disposable bottle of water to the start with you. There will be water at various points around the start, but having your own will keep things in your control if you happen to run late. Also, as goofy as it sounds, I’ve taken a quart-size bag of ice with me to keep me cool while I wait to start. I hate being hot.
5. Plan your spot in your corral. If you’re a slower runner in your corral, start toward the back of your wave. If you’re faster, start toward the front. If you don’t know, don’t worry. It’ll sort itself out.
6. Watch the medians. There are big ol’ concrete medians in the first mile or so. They come up fast, before any thinning of the crowd, so don’t run in the middle in that first part or you may find yourself scrambling to avoid them.
7. Watch the water stops. Later, you’ll need to watch the water stops. This is where people get stupid. Water stops are located on each side of the street. But inevitably there will be a runner who is far to the right and will decide the water stop on the left is where they must be to hydrate. They’ll screech to a halt and you will nearly trip over them as they careen in front of you. My water stop tip is, keep going till the end of the stop, then grab water from one of the last volunteers. And be on guard for everyone else.
8. Don’t sweat Cardiac/Heartbreak/Heart Attack hill. If you train in Atlanta, you’ve probably run hills worse than this. Instead of stressing, look around. You’ll see people from the Shepherd Center (which treats spinal injury patients) out in this area. Focus on that, and on this incredible gift you have, to be able to run.
9. Yeah, the bridge that goes over the connector wobbles. It’s feels weird under your feet. Don’t let it freak you out.
10. STAY AWAY FROM THE FUR BUS. This should probably be number 1. They usually park on the left at Peachtree and West Peachtree (on the left, near Joli Kobe and Heidi Elnora). The whole place reeks of alcohol and by that point it’s hot out and… just no. No, no, no. It makes my stomach turn just thinking about it. I hate to bob and weave during a race, but I will weave if it means I don’t have to smell that smell and risk retching at 4.5 miles into my 10k.
11. You’re not almost there! Just before 10th, stay left so you’re ready for the turn. The crowds are heavy the whole race, but here, so close to the finish, they pick up. The problem for me, is that I always think I’m close to the end, but there is a good half mile from the turn to the finish.
12. Don’t stress, have fun. The Peachtree, for most of the known population, is not a race you run to win or even to PR in. It’s a race done for fun, to experience Atlanta in a unique way, and to spend time with running friends and family . Go with the flow. It will be hot and crowded, so settle in and enjoy it. There are so many sights to see and wonderful spectators, it’s hard NOT to have a good time, if you just let yourself.
Feel free to add your tips in the comments… And have a Happy Peachtree and a great Fourth of July!