Peachtree1On the 4th of July, 60,000 people will participate in a true Atlanta tradition – the AJC Peachtree Road Race. Heralded as the largest 10K in the world, the Peachtree is famous for its size, its amazing spectators, Cardiac Hill and of course the coveted Peachtree T-shirt. This will be my sixth time running down Peachtree Street from Buckhead to Piedmont Park and the thrill is still there. I’m just as excited about lacing up my running shoes to take on this historic race and I’m also a little smarter about how to navigate it. 60,000 runners plus thousands of volunteers and spectators is a massive amount of people. MASSIVE.
The first time I ran the Peachtree I was overwhelmed about getting there on time and a little intimidate by the sheer size of the crowd. Since then I’ve run several large races including Disney’s Princess Half Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. Here are a few tips for race day morning to help you get to, through, and from the huge crowds.

Don’t Drive to the Race. Parking can be a HUGE problem. Road closures are also something to take into consideration – especially if you don’t live in the city and know how to navigate it well. Stay at a hotel that’s in walking distance or use public transportation instead. For the Peachtree I drive to a MARTA station and take the train up to Buckhead. The race Expo has MARTA tickets available so there’s no waiting in long lines at the station the morning of the race.

Plan Potty Breaks. Most large races have large amounts of porta potties, too, but you should still expect long lines. I like to scout low traffic areas and handle my business there. Ahem. When you see a short line you should always take advantage of it. I allow enough time to take a potty break and get back to my corral so I don’t feel rushed.

Me.and.Dad.PeachtreeExpect to Wait. When there are thousands of participants you can safely assume there will be some waiting. Somehow it’s not so bad when you plan for it and expect it. Most of the larger races like the Peachtree have been around for years and operate very smoothly. Be a little patient and it will be a better experience.

Have a Specific Meeting Place for Family and Friends. You can’t tell your family and friends that you’ll meet them at the finish line when 60,000 folks will be meeting their family and friends, too. Chances are you’ll be wandering around looking for your loved ones for a long time. Set a designated spot instead. Most races have meeting areas with signs to make things easier. Take advantage of them – and keep yourself phone charged, too!

Allow Extra Time to Leave. Don’t make the mistake of only planning your arrival to the race. All of those people have to get home, too, and it can be just as crowded trying to leave. My family normally meets me and drives me to my car at the train station so I don’t have to take MARTA back with the crowd. Plan your exit strategy before race day so you can have more time to celebrate your great race.

Until next time, I’m off and running …