Peachtree Road was the site of an American stampede Monday morning when 60,000 gathered to run the 42nd annual Peachtree Road Race.
Among them were ballerinas, Santa Claus, cowboys, anti-war demonstrators, men leaning on walkers, farmers, hula dancers, pirates and Eeyore the Disney donkey. All the city’s characters, from near and far, came to take part in this Atlanta tradition.
Spectators lined the fenced-off sidewalks to cheer on friends and family who were racing, or just to absorb the excitement in the morning air. Loud speakers lined the street blasting pump-up music, and some runners danced along their route. Outside the young boys shot water guns through the fencing at running targets. Hotel employees happily refilled each empty water gun.
Bobby Donlan of New York Prime steakhouse in Buckhead said, “It’s patriotic, and a wonderful Atlanta tradition.” Donlan has gathered with friends and family outside the hotel to watch the Peachtree for eight years now. “It’s our spot,” he said. Jim Lawlor stayed at the Westin to watch the race. He has been bringing his son Jake into the city to watch the race since Jake was 1 year old. “I like the Hayatt better,” Jake said. “It’s got a better pool.”
Richard and Melissa White volunteered at the race for the first time this year, directing traffic along the Buckhead MARTA Station, and greeting runners who were just arriving into town (some still tired and groggy). “So someone’s there as they begin their journey,” White said. The couple agreed they would happily serve again next year. “We’re still smiling.”
Dorace and Roy Brady of Acworth have known the Peachtree Road Race since its very beginning. “It sure has changed in numbers,” Dorace said. They plan to sit on their hotel porch to watch the Lenox fireworks show tonight. “It used to be you had to sit on the sidewalk to watch,” she said.
Julie Stevens from Chicago said people in the north think of the Peachtree Road Race when they think of Atlanta. “It draws people to the city,” she said. “It’s a way for people to get together and support those who are healthy-minded.” Stevens remembers the Peachtree in the '90s when runners would partake in the “six beers in six miles” tradition.
Linda Townsend from Marietta ran the race for five years in a row, but this time she is a spectator. “I’m wishing I was out there,” she said, holding her granddaughter, Sidney Kate, whose father was running the race.
One first-time runner said the massive American flag bannering over the start line, and the fighter jet performance before the start were especially wowing. Will Woodworth, a recent Georgia Tech graduate, now works in Charlotte, N.C., but he returned to Atlanta to continue his tradition of running the Peachtree.
Alan Oliver was in town from Cincinnati on a business trip and found the race right outside his W hotel room. “I don’t know if my knees would hold out or not,” he said, contemplating running a 10K.
Sisters Kay Lawlor of Alpharetta and Pam Furr of Decatur have been watching the road race for 10 years at least. This year they are cheering on a third sister who is running. “We make a day of it,” Lawlor said.
The race is a family affair for many people, and a thrilling experience for friends and visitors alike. The world's largest 10K actually felt more like a close-knit community celebration.
For photos from race in Midtown, see this link. http://patch.com/A-jSK6
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