Thursday, July 05, 2012

Memories of the Peachtree Road Race in the 80s.

I ran the Atlanta July the 4th Peachtree Road Race for several years, from about 1983 to 1987.  In 1988, I had my number but two days before the race my brother-in-law drowned.  I sold my number that year and have not been back.
A few years when I was running it I trained on Sunday mornings.  I would drive to Piedmont Park, get my bike out of the back, chain it to something and then drive back up Peachtree to Lenox Square , park, and run back down Peachtree.  Usually about one or two hundred other people were also training.  I felt part of something, which is a rarity for me.

About the only thing that stands out on my Sunday morning training runs wasacross from Piedmont Hospital I saw an old man in rags bending over doing something by an alley.  Being the nosy person I am, I made a point to run on the sidewalk to see what he was doing.  He was digging through a garbage can by a restaurant back door and gnawing on rib bones.

On the 4th, race day, before the race began, I always found it amusing to go around and look at the people.  At one place, across from Lenox, was a temporary fence called the “World’s Longest Latrine.”  I remember standing by the small trench of the World’s Largest Latrine relieving myself and in walked about a half dozen women with numbers on.  They hunkled down over the little trench and relieved themselves too.

I don’t blame the ladies.  There were not nearly as many facilities  for women as there were for men.  I remember a patch of woods by Lenox Road at the time – in the trees almost behind every bush and tree was a women stooping behind it.  Remember everybody was suppose to drink plenty of liquids before the run – well, what do they expect?

I saw several semi-famous people lingering around before the race, mostly news people, including anchor people – John Pruett comes to mind.  I saw Jimmy Carter two years near the back of the line of people to start racing.

When the race started, they did not have waves or segments as they have now.  After the real runners  got underway everybody else began their run.  I always started near the back and worked my way up some – not a whole lot, but some.  Up enough to be in the middle of the mass of people making a party or a happening out of it all, which was always interesting.

I think just about every time we started out walking because it was just too crowded to do anything else, and someplace between Piedmont Road and the Roswell Road fork the cadence of walking gets at a faster beat and find you are finally running and you get a “group feeling” of running with the crowd.

A lot of people like to put on a show – some dress like Uncle Sam, some dress like the Statue of Liberty – It seemed there was surprised dresser about every few feet.

There were a lot of volunteers handing out cup of water and sometimes just spraying people with water which was welcomed.
Piedmont Park was crazy with colors; people making announcements over the loudspeaker; loud music; thousands of people moving thousands different directions; t-shirt lines; beer lines, a lot of vender tents, and a stage and rows of seats which was meant for invited speakers to say something.

Which reminds me:  One year the officials of the Atlanta Track Club invited a famous female award winning  runner to come and participate in the race and give a speech afterwards.  She was paid for this and was treated as she should be - royally.  After all the festivities, riding back up Peachtree with someone I knew to take me back to my car I saw the famous lady making the long 6.2 mile back up the road alone.

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