It’s the 4th of July and for the people of Atlanta this can only mean one thing: AJC Peachtree Road Race. SPIKES has eight good reasons, why the world’s biggest 10km held every year on American Independence Day is such an iconic race.
1. It’s massive
With participants totalling a monster 60,000 (the cap was increased from 55,000 in 2011), the Peachtree Road Race has earned the moniker ‘the largest annual 10km race in the world’.
One or two may claim to have knocked Peachtree off its perch, but to us it remains one of the most iconic US road race events ever.
2. Community feel
Of the 60,000 people who annually tackle the 10km test, 90 per cent are locals. According to Atlanta Track Club executive director Rich Kenah, it is one of its enduring strengths.
“The race was founded by a guy called Tim Singleton 45 years ago, and he was smart enough to make this a local community event,” explains Kenah.
“This gave the event a great foundation, so that it has become a family tradition. It is more than just a running event. It is a community event for all of Atlanta.”
3. Fast, faster, Peachtree
Even with a gradual incline at around the 6km mark – fittingly – dubbed ‘Cardiac Hill’, the course can be “wicked fast”, as Kenah puts it. The stats back up his argument. The men’s course record of 27:04 set by Kenyan Jospeh Kimani in 1996 still stands No.4 on the all-time lists for distance on the road. The women’s course record set by Lornah Kiplagat in 2002 of 30:32 sits at No.5 all-time.
“The first three miles have a gradual downhill and Cardiac Hill is not so steep as to have a major impact on slowing the field,” insists Kenah.
“I look forward to inviting the international lead back to see how fast they can run this course in future.” This year, Kenah and his team are targeting a chiefly US elite field to coincide with the fact that the event also stages the US 10km Championships.
4. Hall of fame
The status of the race is personified by its impressive cast list of former winners. On the men’s side US distance running icons Craig Virgin and Frank Shorter as well as African trio Filbert Bayi, Khalid Khannouchi and Martin Lel have landed victory at Peachtree. Former women’s victors include Mary Slaney, Grete Waitz and the aforementioned Kiplagat.
Lornah Kiplagat is still the course record holder after 12 years
5. Wave power
To help ease on course race congestion, the Peachtree Road Race is run in more than 20 waves based on a 10km time submitted by all participants. The women’s elite field will start at 7.16am followed by the men at 7.29am and then the next wave of athletes will set out at 7.30am. The final wave will be under starter’s orders at 9.05am.
“To know what time you start elevates the participation experience,” explains Kenah.
One of the unique elements to the Peachtree Road Race is its iconic T-shirt design competition. Each year, people submit their T-shirt designs for the race. This is then whittled down to a final five by public vote.
However, and here is the best part, the winning design is kept secret and only revealed once the race winner crosses the finish line and receives his commemorative T-shirt. “Every year the T-shirt design is a big water cooler topic throughout the city,” laughs Kenah.
7. Supporting the troops
For the past decade, satellite Peachtree races have been held for US servicemen stationed overseas. Atlanta Track Club will send T-shirts and race supplies to the runners with past races held in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. For security reasons the precise location of the runs are kept secret until after the event.
8. The Meb-challenge
This year’s event has an innovative special challenge, as Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi will start at the very back of the field and try to beat 22,500 of the other runners. As part of the chase the US distance running star aims to raise $75,000 through an online fundraiser.
If you want to help Meb reach his goal, donate to Kilometer Kids – a programme designed to encourage young people to achieve health and fitness through running.
Watch out, he's coming for you! Meb will try and overtake 22,500 runners
But why 22,500?
“We looked at the results over the last few years based on how hard he would have to run taking into consideration factors like temperature, which can significantly impact on the number of finishers, and also the ducking and weaving he would have to do with 60,000 on the course,” adds Kenah.
“On the back of this we came up with 22,500 which we hoped would be a reasonably difficult challenge for him.” Meb will start at 9.15am – ten minutes after the final wave start their 10km quest.