Yesterday, after 14-weeks of training, I ran the World’s Largest 10km race – the Peachtree Road Race. I’ve never trained so long for anything before. I think I put less effort into half of my university courses!
If you follow my blog you’ll know that I experienced some trepidation about the race. Everyone in Atlanta has an opinion about the Peachtree, and they all seem to involve the words hot, crowded, and ‘Cardiac Hill’.
So here’s how it went:
Photo courtesy Atlanta Journal Constitution.
We left the house at about 5:30 am and headed to the MARTA train station. No commuters this morning, just people in shorts and running shoes. I didn’t take a photo, but the one from the AJC (above) pretty much sums up the experience.
I noticed two things when we walked towards the race start: first there was a huge police presence owing to the heightened security alerts surrounding the 4th of July, and the second being the many, many toilets available. We hadn’t gone 500 yards and I saw probably five dozen port-a-potties. No waiting! This made me very happy because I always need to run to the bathroom!
The Peachtree allows 60,000 participants, so they very systematically sort everyone into start waves, depending on your expected race time. You can’t just make up a time; when you register you have to provide an actual accredited race date and finish clock time. G is fast so he was in group C, which had a start time of 7:41 am. I’m slow so was with Group N, with a start time of 8:24 am. We separated right after arriving in the race area and I stood around for about 2 hours waiting for my group.
I knew several people running but didn’t see a soul that I recognized. That’s okay, there were plenty of characters in various costumes and outfits. A youngish couple had bride & groom outfits and hats, an older couple wore US flag running shorts (they looked REALLY uncomfortable), several women in Wonder Women outfits, and lots of tutus. Oh, and I saw countless women in full makeup. Heavy foundation, lipstick, eyeshadow, mascara – to each his/her own, but it was raining. I can’t imagine having makeup and mascara flowing in my eyes for 6 miles., But the best I saw was a young man, a rather fit young man, in swim cap, swim googles, toe running shoes, and a Speedo – just a Speedo.
It rained a bit while I waited. The deluge didn’t start until right before my group took off, and of course that was the time when I had to take off my bin liner and hit the street. Group N headed out right on time, and apparently just moments later a bolt of lightning was spotted so everyone BEHIND me was held back for 30 minutes, but those of us in Wave N continued.
I was at the back of my group so my start was easy without any pushing or crowding, possibly because there was a bit of chaos relating to the lightning strike. I didn’t hear a “GO’ or anything, just followed my group past the start line. The first couple of miles were relatively flat and actually a tiny bit downhill. I had two running apps going on my iPhone – my Lolofit 10k Easy 10k with Jeff Galloway, which has Jeff Galloway coaching plus music that is synchronized for my pacing (2 minutes running/1 minute walking, about a 12:30 mile). I also turned on Runtastic because it gives me my pace at set intervals.
I stopped at the bathrooms at mile 2 (again, plenty available – no waiting!) and paused both of my running apps. My phone wouldn’t respond when I tried to restart the apps. The touchscreen was wet, my fingers were wet, my shirt was soaked so there was no way to dry off. I had taken some advice and placed my phone is a sealed zip lock bag before placing it inside my arm band – which was saturated. So I pulled everything out of the bag and went to restart both programs. Runtastic decided my run was over and completed the run. Damn! I tried to restart it going again but my fingers were just too wet and the phone wouldn’t respond. My Lolo/Galloway program – which was truly the more important of the two – was still open so I hit start and headed out again.
I had some problems with the app and my phone again about 5 minutes later and had to take a longer walk break to sort things out … as time ticks by.
(Lesson for all: don’t put your iPhone into a sealed plastic bag in a dame or high humidity environment. My camera is still foggy after about 30 hours.)
By the time I reached the dreaded Cardiac Hill I had sorted out all of my technological issues. For 13 weeks I braced myself for this two-mile stretch. I ran steep grades around my house for weeks just so I could handle this hill. Turns out it’s just a hill. And a smaller hill than the ones in my neighbourhood. Everyone around me was walking – but I stuck to my 2/1 pace and managed to stay on track and running slowly for the whole hill. One spectator high-fived me and that motivated me to keep going. Thanks, random guy!
Miles 3 and 4 are probably the toughest along the course, but there were lots of spectators, music, and church bells pealing. Further down the course, at the Episcopal Church the Priest was blessing all with Holy Water so I ran over to his side of the street and caught a splash of Holy Water as he called out “God Bless’. Since thunder was still looming, I said a little prayer that everyone would be safe. At the Shepherd Center, there were folks in wheelchairs watching and cheering the runners. Although my body is far from perfect, it was carrying me along the course. Call me sappy but I felt a moment of gratitude for strong legs.
The second hill segment slowed me down and I did take an extra walk break. I wasn’t familiar with this area so really enjoyed looking at the architecture, stores, restaurants and crowds that had started to gather along the roadways. Maybe I don’t focus enough on my running so I’ll never be a ‘real’ runner, but I was enjoying myself. Spectators were yelling, ringing cowbells, hollering encouragement and handing out things – beer, pixie sticks, candy, water, sunglasses – all kinds of stuff. I started to understand why people like this race.
It seemed like I’d only been running for 30 minutes yet it was time to turn east down 10th Street towards Piedmont Park. There is one last uphill, then a couple of blocks downhill to the finish. Just before the final turn my favourite run song came on my app (Pharrell’s ‘Happy”) so I mustered the last bit of extra energy and prepared for the last five minute push. Then the voice on my app said, “Congratulations! You’re done!” And my Michael Buble cooldown music began to play. WTF? I wasn’t done, I was blocks away from the finish! DAMN! Apparently there was a malfunction in my GPS and the app figured I was done a bit too early. There was nothing I could do at this point so I started to sing Happy in my head (actually I think I was singing out loud but by this time no one else seemed to notice) then ran in at the fastest pace I could handle. Hooray! Finished it!
The race ends right at Piedmont Park, and then runners are routed through an area to pick up a bottle of water, a box of snacks and the coveted t-shirt. All of this for a red t-shirt 🙂 I made my way to the meeting place where I found G. He had been waiting patiently for probably 90 minutes. He had a good race, 51:02 according to his GPS watch. I inhaled a sandwich and we started the long walk, in the rain, to the MARTA station. We crossed the race course and there were still thousands of people running. If I hadn’t been so wet, I would have hung around the cheer them on.
So I got the t-shirt, and I purchased the Commemorative Medal because I feel like I accomplished something and want to remember it. Maybe it will just hang on my bulletin board, but that’s okay.
My official time was 1:32:37. I really wanted to beat 1:30.
I paused the program for 6:02 when I messed around with my phone at Mile 2 and if it weren’t for that my time would have been 1:26:35.
I figured I’d beat 90 minutes without any problem and I didn’t, but truly, I’m so happy that I made it without pain or real difficulties.
I felt good the whole way through the race. There was a period when I knew my stride was too long and my shins immediately warned me to slow down. But otherwise, my lungs held up, my legs stayed strong, and I made it. As I said to someone outside of the MARTA station, it was “only” six miles 😀
The Jeff Galloway training & his run/walk/run method worked for me. I truly ended the 10k feeling well with only a slightly sore foot and a few aches. Aside from being really tired, I felt absolutely fine afterwards. That says something about listening to your body and not pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion.
This would have been a completely different race if the sun had been shining and it was hot. But this was the perfect introduction. I know what to expect now.
By the time we got home at about noon, I had taken over 22,000 steps for the day. I was dehydrated and cold, so basically spent the rest of the day in a bit of a stupor. My left leg ached and my hips were tight. I had a nap in the afternoon and was out like a light at 8:55 pm. Even the fireworks and firecrackers in the neighbourhood didn’t wake me up.
Would I do it again? Hell, yes! The crowd is jubillant and joyful. The spectators were not only supportive, they were also having a great time. And the organization was flawless. The Atlanta Track Club knows how to do it right. Even if I knew I had to walk the whole course, I’d absolutely do it again.
But next year … maybe 1:20?