2016 Publix Georgia Marathon: Race Recap by Big Peach Running Co. Founder & Chief Running Officer.
Ed. Note: This is part 2 of a 2 part blog post referencing the 2016 Publix Georgia Marathon.
There are big-time races that give indication of their status as soon as you arrive at the starting area… And, wonderfully enough, there are also plenty of races of smaller stature and fewer participants that rightfully and comfortably convey an energetically intimate setting upon your arrival. But let’s face it: This race is barely half the size of its inaugural totals from ten (10) years ago, so who would doubt me if I expected the latter described environment. Here’s my favorably amazing conclusion, however… It was both! It was big-time and intimate. It was full-scale and comfortable. It was easy to navigate the corrals and exciting to be a part of the gathering. For those familiar with Atlanta Track Club races, this was the Peachtree Road Race meets the Atlanta’s Finest 5k. In short, the Start Line was an A+.
For understandable reasons relating to sensibly restoring the utilized thoroughfares to all-access throughout the city, this race starts early and in the dark for both the Half and Full marathoners. And I’m not going to forecast that the weather that greeted us this year will be an easy replication in future iterations… But, man, would I like to have seen the faces of those who were race participants while visiting the City of Atlanta for the first time! Even as a 20+ year resident, I was blown away by the superbly clear skyline views at daylight and the beautiful colorful explosion of flora in all-out Springtime glory as the sun rose atop the neighborhoods first traversed on this course! My guess is that first-time visitors, regardless of the difficulty associated with the route itself, said everything from a collected, “I think I could I live here” to the more animated, “Honey, call the realtor, we’re moving to Atlanta!” And though I’m sure this is similar to when I did this race in 2007-2009, as the general timing of the race has always been the same, I guess I just appreciate it even more now that I’m a more mature (read: slower) runner. My grade for Course Beauty is an A+.
As rightful homage to the New York City Marathon and as a legacy of Victoria Seahorn’s effort, it is no accident that the challenging routes for both the Half and Full marathons intentionally put upwards of two (2) dozen in-town neighborhoods on display for all to enjoy. This is, of course, on top of an itinerary that includes both the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site and The Carter Center, as well as passage through Piedmont Park… As a veteran of the NYC Marathon, and while admitting my obvious bias for almost anything in Georgia, our parade of residential highlights far surpasses anything that precedes arrival in Central Park in November. Said differently, The Big Peach stomps the Big Apple ☺… Whether you agree with me or not, thoughtful renovation and strategic preservation are evident partners on stage in Old Fourth Ward, Inman Park, Candler Park, Virginia-Highlands and many other course locations. Still, in fairness to our northern inspiration, NYC kicks our southern rear-end with their crowd support, with a few notable exceptions currently. Specifically, the raucous early-morning risers in Old Fourth Ward, the beer-sharing and Mimosa-making merrymakers in Virginia-Highlands and the playful, rhyming roadside signs throughout the City of Decatur are creative indication of what our scenic course needs both visibly and audibly in each and every featured area on the course. All those neighborhood residents and visitors who came out to support the runners this year get an A+ + + + +. At the same time, the volume of neighborhood support is an obvious area for growth and will only get better as this race re-establishes itself. But for now, the overall grade is, indeed, “average” as a “ and a wonderful opportunity to “retake the course” next year.
It is said that walking, running, exercise, in general, and participating in fitness-related events all help you look and feel younger. In my case, I can only vouch for the latter☺. BUT I can also say that one of the best utilized resources for this race is the youthful exuberance that marks the nearby campuses of Emory University, Agnes Scott College and Georgia Tech. And, for sure, the wonderfully juvenile playfulness that accompanies the locations where these students have gathered, from the Agnes Scot water station to the neighborhood streets of Druid Hills and on the Fifth Street Bridge, is a race highlight that seemingly transfers the bounty of their young minds and bodies AND their young-at-heart spirit to everyone who passes! All of the recent participants should have only praise for our Millennial generation after completing this race… My grade for Student Involvement? You got it, A+. Too bad for them it doesn’t count as a penny’s worth of college credit.
Whether walking or running. Whether trying to set a personal best or just hoping to finish. Whether doing the half marathon or the full marathon. There is, simply, this universal desire when participating in a long-distance race: To feel supported. Aid stations, Cheer Zones, course safety and Finish Line celebrations are all a reflection of the support someone feels while covering their chosen distance. And, for sure, the Georgia Marathon (and, presumably, Half Marathon since I did not cover the back half of this course) had these elements fully covered! From the friendliest law enforcement officers I can recollect in a local race (yes, they’re getting paid; yes, there were exceptions) to the strategically placed cheering squads, it was tough to feel alone or on your own in this race. I will also give props to both Publix and Chik-fil-a for some appreciated corporate activation, as the Publix team members at Piedmont and North Avenue, as well as the roaming cows on Ralph McGill, did an awesome job of encouraging those on the course. As both a race participant and business owner, your efforts did, indeed, make me feel more connected to your brand…
Zig Ziglar, author of Over The Top (and other best-sellers) and one of my favorite Personal and Business Growth icons, rightfully says, “Where you start is not as important as where you finish.” The good news in this quote for many runners in most races is that the Start and the Finish are both located in the same place. But the special elixir for Race Directors is making their respective participants feel both comfortable at the Start AND special at the Finish. This is an area where I feel particularly qualified to comment, as I’ve completed over a hundred marathons, including some of the most recognized races in the world. And where I’m not going to suggest our race bests the Boston Marathon or other wonderfully celebrated finish areas, the homecoming for race participants at Centennial Olympic Park is spectacular and reminiscent of other events that are much larger and far more widely known. Of course, it is also my contention that anytime you take on a double-digit distance in Atlanta, you deserve to have your completion enthusiastically acknowledged!
So there they are five(5) fabulous reasons to recollect your recent race, make plans for next year or, perhaps, lament your lack of participation. You choose! And I’ll see you at the starting line next year…
For video on the Publix Georgia Marathon, click here.