Whether you’re new to Atlanta or you’ve called this city home for decades, chances are you’ve heard about the Peachtree Road Race. The annual event attracts runners and walkers alike, and this year will mark the 43rd year of the Atlanta tradition. With the countdown to the race officially on, Atlantans are busy gearing up for this 6.2-mile trek down Peachtree Street. In preparation for the big day, we’ve got your complete guide to the best shoes, running gear, training practices and more.
Preparing for a 10K may sound a bit daunting, especially if it’s your first race. But according to Tracey Russell, executive director of the Atlanta Track Club, training doesn’t have to be a chore. She encourages participants of the Peachtree Road Race (or anyone who wants to improve their 10K finish time) to try the In-Training for Peachtree 10K training program presented by Publix. The 11-week program is designed for novice and intermediate runners to train, and features Saturday group runs based out of 12 Publix locations throughout the metro area.
Along with In-Training for Peachtree, the Atlanta Track Club produces several other training programs including the Atlanta Marathon Training Program which trains participants for the Atlanta Marathon on October 28, the Atlanta Half Marathon Training which prepares participants for the Atlanta Half Marathon on Thanksgiving Day, and the Women on the Move Training Series, the all-women’s 5K training program that prepares participants for the Atlanta Women’s 5K in March.
If you’re looking to join a regular, year-round running group, the Big Peach Running Company (BPRC) has a number of group runs during the week throughout metro Atlanta. And if you want to combine your endurance training with a good cause, be sure to check out Team In Training, Georgia Chapter. In addition to working out with coaches and mentors, participants can add fundraising for cancer to the challenge of training.
READY, SET, PEACHTREE!
If you’re aiming to improve your 10K finish time, it’s important to get on a training regimen and stick to it. Calvin Cole, a certified personal trainer at Concourse Athletic Club who specializes in cardiovascular and endurance training, weighs in on a realistic routine for each level one month prior to the race.
Weekly Routine: 2 days of rest, 5 days of running/jogging/power walking
Weekly Mileage: 17 to 22.5 miles
“If you don’t really run, pace yourself,” he says. “Gauge your intensity by monitoring your heart rate while running in your peak zone and your lower zone. Start running before the race to find out what is a comfortable pace for you and stay within it.”
Weekly Routine: 2 days of rest, 5 days of running
Weekly Mileage: 18 to 28 miles
“At this point you should be in well enough condition to run the 10K, so now is the time to fine tune it and see where your efficiency is,” he says. “Run a 10K at least four times in the last month. Break it down by mile, and if you’re not at the pace you’d like, use a heart rate monitor to track your heart rate. At what point can you improve your time? Are you lagging off in the third mile? Can you save some energy by going slower in the beginning and speeding up at the end?”
Weekly Routine: 1 day of rest, 6 days of running
Weekly Mileage: 36 to 42 miles
“This is the time for sprint work,” he says. “The biggest mistake is when people have sprint days without exposing the muscle to a sprint-type environment while they’re already at their peak. A fresh muscle doesn’t mimic race speed. If you want to increase speed at end of run, take a muscle and fatigue it. Run four to five miles, then do sprint work so it mimics the race.”
THE PERFECT FIT
It’s so important for the health of your feet to have the right running shoes. “Feet are as individual as each runner,” says Marsha Riggs, a pedorthist and owner of the Foot Solutions store in Sandy Springs. “An appropriate orthotic or arch support in a properly fitted running shoe can change the mechanics so that a runner is moving in a healthy manner.”
Having someone fit your running shoe is vital to preventing injury and optimizing performance. Mark Dobbins, owner of New Balance Buckhead, gives some helpful pointers on finding the perfect fit.
“Your running shoe needs to be designed for your foot type,” he says. “Whether you are an under-pronated, a normal pronated, or an over-pronated foot type, there are shoes designed with internal pieces to help make your gait more efficient.” (Pronation of the foot refers to how the body distributes weight as it cycles through the gait).
According to Dobbins, the three main elements to look for are:
• Control in the heel - There cannot be true support if the heel is not controlled
• Stability in the midfoot or arch - This needs to be a snug fit around the midfoot
• Release in the forefoot - The forefoot should be able to flex and allow your body to be as efficient as possible in the propulsion phase
“A properly fitted shoe won’t do the workout for you,” Dobbins says. “What it will do is reduce the chance of injury and discomfort, allowing you to maintain your regimen. It’s hard to get motivated when your feet hurt.”
WORD ON THE STREET
For a runner like Kevin Gaston, 44, training is all about building up his endurance. He has run multiple races including two 5Ks, one 10K, the ING half marathon and the Peachtree Road Race. “For a 10K I like to run fast, so I train by running in intervals,” he explains. “I’ll do a number of three mile runs, or intervals of one mile on a running track.”
When he’s working out to maintain his stamina, Gaston hits the running track one to two times a week to do intervals of ¼ mile or 100 and 200 meters. “Sometimes I’ll jog ¼ mile, and after every lap, I go to a workout station to do push-ups, pull-ups or abdominal work,” he says. “I call it ‘active recovery’ because it allows you to run at a higher level than you would normally.”
For less serious runners like Nick and Shannon Seyfried, both 34, training for this year’s Peachtree Road Race involves chasing after their toddler. “I won’t be going for gold this year!” Shannon says with a laugh. “I typically get into running mode by running around Piedmont Park or the Chattahoochee River trail several weeks before.”
After 10 combined years of running the Peachtree (six for her and four for him), the Seyfrieds don’t worry too much about preparing for the big day. “It is such a great, well-run race,” Shannon says. “The support from the community is so amazing that little prep is needed for hydration while running – even in Atlanta July heat!” They’ve also made a tradition of going out for a celebratory lunch following the run. “We like to hit the Nook in Midtown post race” Nick says.
For veteran runner, Bill Payne, 63, this year’s race will be a bit different from years past. After 32 years of running Peachtree, he’ll be one of the 150,000 observers lining the streets to support the participants. “I just had surgery for my torn meniscus,” he says. “I ran my first Peachtree Road Race in 1979 after a friend asked me to do it with him. I really did hope to run this year because I was going to run with my 10-year-old grandson.”
Payne’s running career is certainly one to be proud of. In fact, he’s run 12 marathons, countless 10Ks, and at age 58, he did an Olympic distance triathlon. “I ran the first marathon so that I could run faster 10Ks in the spring,” he says. “I was trying to break 40 minutes—and did—but it took three years. The trick was to do speed training three times a week.”
MORE RACE DAY TIPS FROM THE PROS
“Because the race is in July, you’ve probably been training in more moderate temperatures, so you need to acclimatize your body to the temperature at which you’ll be running,” Cole says. “Go out during the hotter part of the day and be active, whether it’s working in the yard or playing with your kids. Expose yourself to heat and work your way up to training in that environment.”
Know the Life of Your Running Shoe
“Never try new shoes on the day of a race, and always train in shoes you plan to race in,” Dobbins says. “Get a new pair of racing shoes one month out and run in them for at least two weeks to develop adequate comfort for a race. Three to six months is the life of a running shoe.”
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
“Drink about one pint of water one to two hours before a race, and take a sports beverage along with you,” Cole says. “Gatorade or anything with 20 percent carbohydrates will get you where you need to be. This prevents the depletion of electrolytes and keeps glycogen in the blood high. This is the main source of energy for localized muscle.”
“In terms of food, eat something light the morning of the event such as toast or a bagel,” Russell says. “It’s also important to stick with foods that you’re used to eating prior to your training runs. Race morning is not the time to introduce new foods into your diet.”
Monitor Your Heart Rate
“I recommend a Polar heart rate monitor,” Cole says. “If you’re coming to your peak heart rate too early, then you know to slow down so your performance doesn’t decrease.”
OUR TOP PICKS FOR RUNNING GEAR
Shoes: Our trainers and Peachtree Road Racers’ top picks for running shoes are Asics: www.asicsamerica.com, and New Balance: www.newbalance.com. Asics: the ASICS Gel-Cirrus 33, New Balance: the WR993 running shoe
Heart Rate Monitor: Certified Personal Trainer Calvin Cole swears by the Polar heart rate monitor. www.polarfi.en
Camera: Olympus Tough Series digital cameras are lightweight, portable, and built for extreme conditions, so they’re perfect for capturing your favorite race day moments. www.olympuscamera.com
Check out the Peachtree Health and Fitness Expo on July 2 – 3 at the Georgia World Congress Center for numerous fitness vendors, exhibitors and more. www.peachtreeroadrace.org/expo
Atlanta Track Club, www.atlantatrackclub.org
Big Peach Running Company, www.bigpeachrunningco.com
Concourse Athletic Club, www.concourseclub.com
Foot Solutions, www.stores.footsolutions.com/sandysprings
New Balance, www.shopnewbalance.com
Peachtree Road Race, www.peachtreeroadrace.org
Team In Training, Georgia Chapter, www.teamintraining.org/ga
Some Fun Facts About Peachtree
- On July 4, 1970, 110 runners gathered at the old Sears parking lot on the corner of Peachtree and Roswell Road. The group, now known as the “Original 110,” ran 6.2 miles through Atlanta to Central City Park in what would go down in history as the inaugural Peachtree Road Race.
- In 1978, the race finish was moved to Piedmont Park in front of the Bath House to accommodate the 6,500+ runners.
- The Shepherd Center’s Wheelchair Division was added in 1982.
- Due to the drought in 2008, the race could not finish in Piedmont Park and was moved to Juniper Street and Ponce de Leon Avenue.
- In 2011, the race cap increased to 60,000 and an online lottery system was implemented for registration.
- In addition to the 60,000 participants, approximately 150,000 observers line both sides of the course to cheer and support the runners.
- The first AJC Peachtree Jr. was held in 1987.
- Approximately 3,400 volunteers are needed to work the race.
- Water is provided to runners at each mile, and approximately 500,000 cups and 120,000 gallons of water are used during the race.
- It is estimated that the Peachtree Road Race costs over $1,000,000, if in-kind contributions are included.
- Since 2004, satellite Peachtree Races have been held for U.S. soldiers stationed overseas. The Atlanta Track Club sends race supplies, including T-shirts, to the runners.
- The men’s course record is 27:04 minutes, which was set by Joseph Kimani in 1996.
- Lornah Kiplagat is the women’s record holder with her run of 30:32 from 2002.
- The coolest starting temperature on race day was 62 degrees in 1986 and 1989. The warmest temp was 80 degrees in 1970, ’73, ’77, ‘80, ’83 and ’91.