Spectators and runners in the 45th annual AJC Peachtree Road Race have come to expect a lot of things on July 4: the vast sea of 60,000 bobbing runners, the challenge of Cardiac Hill, the dramatic unveiling of the winning T-shirt design.
On Friday, they can expect this, too: close, exciting races among the elite athletes competing for a $100,000 purse in the USA 10 km Championships for both men and women, with the winners taking home $15,000.
“I’m thinking there’s going to be four or five people turning that corner onto 10th Street,” said Christo Landry, one of the top contenders in the deep men’s field, in an interview at the pre-race press conference Wednesday morning in Piedmont Park. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it took a sub-28:20 to win the race.”
Landry who will be vying for his third USA road title this year, was joined at the press conference by USA title contenders Ryan Hall, Sara Hall, and Desiree Linden, as well as top wheelchair athletes Tatyana McFadden and Krige Schabort.
Sara Hall, the top seed in the women’s race, will be contending not only with a field of strong and evenly matched rivals but also a broken rib and fractures to her elbow, sustained in a fall during her cool-down after the Oakley New York Mini 10K on June 14.
“The pain doesn’t stop me from training effectively” she told the gathering in Magnolia Hall. “It’s just a matter of dealing with it.”
Headlining the field of almost 60 elite American athletes in the open field are six Olympians and a dozen national champions, including both of the Halls, Linden, Landry, Aaron Braun, Abdi Abdirahman, Amy Hastings and Kellyn Johnson.
While the elite athletes were the focus of Wednesday’s press conference, the tens of thousands who will happily finish behind them on Friday were lauded by Rich Kenah, executive director of Atlanta Track Club and race director of the AJC Peachtree Road Race.
“There’s a recent post on our AtlantaTrackClub.org blog that I think accurately articulates and communicates what the AJC Peachtree Road Race is all about,” said Kenah, who took the helm in February. “It’s Our Turn” was written by 10-year-old triplets Brendan, Leo, and Emmett O’Neill, who on July 4 will become the third generation of their family to run Peachtree, going back to their grandparents in 1980.
After spending the first nine July Fourths of their lives watching the race with their grandparents as they waited to cheer on mom and dad, the boys can’t wait to get their chance to run for the first time.
When you read their enthusiastic post, said Kenah, “You get the sense of what this event means to runners and to Atlanta in general.”
Immediately after the press conference, the athletes headed outdoors to join several dozen Kilometer Kids from Atlanta Track Club’s youth running program for a Q and A session as well as stretching and a one-mile run.
The 45th AJC Peachtree Road Race, the largest road race in the country and the largest 10K in the world, begins on July 4 at 6:45 with the wheelchair races, followed by the women’s professional division at 7:16 a.m. and the men’s professional division and footrace at 7:29 a.m.