Run the Peachtree

The Peachtree Road Race is more than just the world's largest 10K road race. It's a social event in Atlanta, as thousands of spectators line Peachtree Street, Atlanta's main drag, to cheer the runners.

If you're lucky enough to be in town on July 4th, you can do the same. Pack a breakfast and station yourself just about anywhere along Peachtree from Lenox Square to 14th Street. Or go straight to the finish in Piedmont Park and take part in the chaos of the finale. Be sure to arrive early. The wheelchair division of the race begins at 7am, and the official footrace begins at 7:30am. Peachtree is closed to traffic that morning, and you'll have difficulty crossing the street -- even on foot -- after 7am.

The race is quite a sight to behold, as 55,000 runners surge down Peachtree, a far cry from the 110 runners who gathered to run the first race in 1970. (The only spectators then were a few surprised pedestrians walking their dogs.) The race is so popular now that it takes 500 volunteers to coordinate the start and 50 minutes for the final group to pass the starting line. By then, the winner has already covered the 6.2-mile distance and rested for at least a quarter of an hour.

Don't even think about entering the race at the last minute. Many more applicants than can be accommodated vie for the available spots, and the event always closes out in a few days. You can, however, run the course on other days of the year. There are sidewalks all the way down Peachtree, so it's a fairly safe course. Here's the route you should follow:

Start at the corner of Peachtree and Lenox roads, right across from Lenox Square. Proceed down Peachtree through Buckhead. Along the way, you'll pass by some of Atlanta's most elegant neighborhoods. Just after West Wesley Road, you'll have a magnificent view of the downtown skyline. Don't let the easy, downward trend of the first few miles fool you. This is a tough run, and just about halfway through the course, there's a fairly steep incline -- appropriately dubbed Heartbreak or Heart Attack Hill. (Fortunately, the top of the hill is right in front of Piedmont Hospital.) In Midtown, proceed on Peachtree to 10th Street, turn left, and continue to the end of the course, which is at the Charles Allen Drive entrance to Piedmont Park. To return to Lenox Square, backtrack to the Midtown station on 10th Street a block off Peachtree, and take MARTA to the Buckhead or Lenox station.

For more information, call the Atlanta Track Club at tel. 404/231-9064.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.