The Run for the Peaches

Atlanta's most famous Fourth of July event is a sweet slice of America.
Annette Thompson

Of all the holidays, Fourth of July may just be my favorite. There's no better place to celebrate community and country than at the world's largest footrace, which courses down Atlanta's most famed boulevard.

Starting at 7:30 a.m. on this summer day, I'll join 55,000 runners hurling our sweaty selves 6.2 miles between more than 200,000 encouraging merrymakers. We begin in front of Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza--and it takes close to an hour just to move that many of us across the starting line.

Like everything in Georgia's capital, race day creates traffic--but of a different sort. Joggers in all imaginable combinations of red, white, and blue running shoes, skimpy nylon shorts, and cool singlets flow into the tony Buckhead neighborhood.

All along Peachtree, citizens stretch out in lawn chairs, and others standing two and three deep cheer before heading out to their own holiday barbecues and picnics. On one corner, a couple of elderly ladies, one with white hair and the other with violet curls, politely wave flags. They're wearing satin dresses in stars and stripes that would make Uncle Sam smile.

The whole affair is one huge party that you can join. Along the seven-lane road, the runners flow 8 and 10 abreast, creating a rippling river of humanity. They weave in and out of foot traffic like it's Friday afternoon on State 400.

The largest congregation of spectators occurs near Piedmont Park, where the race ends with festivities and music in the park. If you join the crowds here, beware. Peachtree Road remains impassable due to the shoulder-to-shoulder runners until 10:30 a.m.

The winners will briefly take the stage in the park around 9:30, with wheelchair athletes clocking in at less than 20 minutes and the runners setting a scorching rate near 27 minutes.

Peachtree Road Race: July 4, each year. Spectators are welcome. To apply to run the race, contact the Atlanta Track Club at (404) 231-9064 or www.atlantatrackclub.org.