Waking up at 4:30 to do a race is insane. I much rather sleep. But here I was, throwing off the covers and jumping in the shower to wake up the rest of me. I have my running gear laid out on the floor the night before, making it easy to locate everything without much thought. Breakfast consists of a big to-go cup of chocolate milk with a smidge of coffee. We are out the door by five and headed downtown, gulping down my brew along the way.
I decided that Ponce de Leon was the least likely Thanksgiving morning to get carjacked route from my home in Decatur. Very few cars are on the road, anything moving looks like something to avoid. I arrive at the start to find my parking area last year closed. All cars are being funneled to one lot. To get in line I had to turn right, drive two blocks in the wrong direction and make a u-turn. A $5.00 per is being charged, slowing the line of cars down to a pub crawl pace. Great planning. Actually found a good spot near the start to observe Prue-race activities.
I spent some time trying to guess the start waves by looking at the body types associated with the various color coded bibs. It was obvious that some people were in the wrong start wave. Kind of like gunk in your sink, these people were ready to clog things up. I saw several runners going back and forth, like they were lost or just nervous. I like sitting in my car and listening to rock. Saw several pilgrims, Indians, even turkeys passing by. Nothing original, however. Except maybe the John Smith guy.
The first mile starts uphill, not good, and takes you by Georgia State University. The panhandlers were disappointed that we were going too fast for them to run us down.
Mile two and three took us up Northside Drive where we got a good view of guys dressed like prostitutes. Do they think they look alluring? As we approached Atlantic Station, a crazy was yelling at a policeman because he could not cross the street due to the runners. The cop told him to have a nice day.
The forth mile is my favorite mile, a break from the most depressing areas of downtown Atlanta. Is that Ikea?
A big hill on 14th Street reclaims all the time you had accumulated from the fast, adrenalin induced start. Right after you enter Piedmont Park, you are greeted with mile six, where the gays and winos cheer you on. If you had anything left after the park, it is drained out of you with the big hill at mile seven on tenth Street.
I tried the sport-jelly beans at mile 8, and also the Twix I brought allow to boost my energy levelor at least give me a sugar high, but anything solid tends to gag me because at this point my mouth is pretty dry. Sports drinks and water have always been best for me. We pass by the mission, not the FOX as you would expect, and get a good view of people waiting in line for food, some actually sleeping on the sidewalk. This is unlike the Portland, Oregon soup line which consist of a mix of college students with no shame and mountaineers. Both sporting long beards. These are real homeless bums with their life possessions contained in a shopping cart.
When we make the turn onto Auburn Avenue for the 9th mile. "Sweet Auburn" as it dubiously called has mostly people that wish you would slow down where they could mug and rob you. Not being energetic enough to chase after you, they yell obsenities at the good looking women runners. Yeah, those are great pick-up lines. Wish I had a pen and pad to write them down.
The course then turns toward the historic Oakland cemetery for the 10th mile where you get an excellent view of a brick wall. It is inspiring, however, to know that you are out here running and not in there pushing up daisies. About the only people I can outrun at this point are zombies.
We soon hit mile eleven with only one big hill to go near the Capital. You pull it all together, knowing that it is almost over and at this point you could crawl to the finish line. I am now running in the forgotten warriors of the road. A bit different from my competitive days, but these people still want to beat you. Therefore, it is a small reward to yourself for everyone you pass, just as it is a disappointment to not being able to latch on to a runner that passes. If one is able to draft a runner in it makes the last couple of miles go by quickly as you only think about hanging on and forget about how tired you are.
The last half mile is mostly and upward grade that obscures the finish line, making you think that maybe they moved it. Still a great thrill to cross the finish line. A chunky medallion makes it feel like an Olympic win. Soon, a choice has to made whether to continue to the goodie tables or head by to the car. The logistics genius has located these two areas a mile apart. I decide the goodies are not worth an extra two miles.
Sitting in my car I watch the rest of the finishers comig in. I spot a guy that once ran a 2:50 marathon, but now is a back packer because of arthritis in his left knee.
I see he still gets excited crossing the finish line. Some of us still enjoy cheap thrills. Your brain needs to feel that something has been accomplished each day you exist.
I wonder what the organizers of this race are thinking. This course has changed several times over the years, passing through Decatur, Buckhead, Brookhaven, Emory and other beautiful senic areas of Atlanta. Now, I am certain that out-of-town visitors to Atlanta will be disappointed in the view of Atlanta this race gives them. The Atlanta marathon and half marathon was once a Thanksgiving tradition for real runners. Now the marathon isn't even run on Thanksgiving and you are falling over kids to get to the starting line for the half. The Atlanta Track Club has turned into a profit oriented organization, catering to parents who slap their number on them and have them run the last half mile of the Peachtree for a photo of them crossing the finish line. My son actually ran the Peachtree when he was twelve in 43 minutes. And we did not buy the photo. If you run this race, don't expect to see anything scenic like Stone Mountain, Capital City Country Club, Brookhaven, Buckhead, the Fox, Decatur square, Little Five Points, Or Virginia/Highland. It goes past Georgia Tech, but avoids giving you even a glimpse of the campus. It would go by the stockyards if we still had them.