Call Me Tired: From the hills to Piedmont 'swamp'
by Wes Mayer
(Editor’s Note: Newnan Times-Herald police beat writer Wes Mayer shared his experiences from Thursday’s Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta after successfully making the 10K trek as one of an estimated 60,000 runners that participated on the first rain-soaked event since 1994)
The Fourth of July holiday was my fifth time running Atlanta’s famed Peachtree Road Race, and I’m proud to say that I finally finished the darn thing in under an hour. I also did it without getting hit by a single drop of rain, which may seem even more impressive this week.
I successfully managed to drag myself out of bed at 5:30 a.m., sleepily drove into Atlanta, found a safeish place to park, caught a beautiful MARTA train, negotiated the crowded mass of people ambling to the start line, found an entirely neglected herd of porta-potties where I could “prepare” for the race, started stretching as my time group (G) left me behind, joined a different time group a few letters back (J... I think), and started the race around 8:30 listening to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” a personal favorite.
At last, after weeks of sporadic training and operating under the assumption that I could at least run for four miles without stopping, I was running, well, jogging... or trotting ... maybe power walking.
Speaking of which, if you are going to walk, move over to the right. That’s what it’s for. It’s just like driving. If you are slow in the left lane, frustrated drivers will end up riding your bumper and shouting expletives at you. Runners do that too, but they do it in the form of “accidentally” scraping off your achilles tendons with their shoes.
Well, I didn’t shout any expletives at anyone (unlike that one guy), and I managed to not step on anyone (unlike that other guy), but it took me about a mile and a half to weave my way through the walkers. Then, when I eventually broke through and got up to a good pace, I reached Heartbreak Hill, the dreaded, steep hill at the 3-mile mark. Suddenly, all the weird muscles in my legs I never knew about, started to hurt.
But I know from some minor experience of running cross country in high school, the hills are where you are supposed to focus all of your energy. So I ran up that hill as hard as I could. Until I got about halfway, then I started to slow down. Then I slowed down a bit more, and things hurt a bit more. Then elderly ladies started passing me, and I knew that I probably should have trained a little harder.
I wanted to walk. Every survival instinct my body operated under was ordering me to walk. But I also know from past experience running the Peachtree that walking just ruins the race. Once you start walking and realize how much better that feels, you’re lost. You just have to remind yourself how much better walking will feel at the finish line.
So I didn’t slow down. I powered through and made it to the top of that miserable hill, only to realize that it wasn’t the top of the hill -- it just keeps going until you get a heart attack. A few more minutes, though, and I made it. Victory. The hard part was over. “It’s all downhill from here,” the spectators shout.
At mile five, another hill hits you, and it’s longer and more brutal because your leg muscles are just screaming at you to lie down. It isn’t as steep as the infamous “Heartbreak Hill,” but it hurts about the same.
Somehow, I made it through that one too, but I had that feeling that I was making horrible time. It was very demoralizing, my goal had been to finish in under an hour, and I thought I was failing. I was tempted to get some beer from some of the spectators on the side.
But then I saw the turn — the last mile of nothing but downhill running. There I finally got my second wind because I realized the race was almost over. That’s when the race is the most fun, it makes every bit of pain worth it. I ran as hard as I could for that last stretch, attempting to make up for any lost time. I still had to dodge and dive around all the slower people, but at that point it seemed like just a game. I waved at the photographers, crossed the finish line at a full sprint, jumped up to tap the finish gate (just something I do that feels appropriate) and ran into Piedmont... Swamp.
Mud was everywhere. It was nasty. My legs were like jelly and they were making me walk across a field of wet grass and slippery mud. I felt sorry for anyone who just bought new shoes for the race because they definitely weren’t new anymore.
Anyway, I was victorious. I grabbed my T-shirt, which are really nice this year -- a black shirt with a red, white and blue logo. I traversed the mud and grabbed as many free snacks and drinks as I could. And I began the long, uphill trek back to MARTA and eventually back home. Another successful Peachtree Roadrace.
I finished in 57 minutes, 40 seconds. I came in 10,795th place. So close...