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ING Georgia Marathon – The 26.2 Achoo! March 26, 2007

Posted by atlantarunner in Running.

Race Report: My Running of the Inaugural ING Georgia Marathon

March 25, 2007


Most people say that a marathon is not the time to try something new. However, on Saturday afternoon, about 16 hours before the Sunday morning start of the ING Georgia Marathon, I had to make a decision. You see, at that time, the Spring pollen finally got to me. After weeks of daily Claritin and no real problems, hay fever decided to strike me right before my 2nd marathon… the one I trained so hard for. I had to decide: should I try running with hay fever (something I have never done before, even in training), or should I play it safe and stay home?

You probably guessed: I ran. I’m glad I did–now I know I can do it in case I ever have to do it again (though I don’t ever want to). And, though I played it safe and didn’t push my pace too hard, I still beat my Chicago time from October 2006. I finished with a chip time of 4:49:09, beating my Chicago 5:05:16. So I am pleased, considering the circumstances. If I had been completely healthy, I would have pushed harder to reach my 4:35 goal (10:30 minute/mile), but I’m not at all ashamed of this finish.

Anyway, here is a summary of the race.

The good:

  • Lots of porta-potties. They had an innumerable set of them at the start/finish, and at least 2 at every mile.
  • The crowd support: I was impressed with how many people came out to cheer us on for this inaugural marathon, especially considering that there was no established tradition like in other cities.
  • The weather at the start: a comfortable 67 degrees F at the starting line in downtown Atlanta (according to the Coca Cola sign near the starting line), and it felt like it was in the lower 60s as the course took us away from the city.

The bad:

  • The weather later in the morning: once the sun got above the trees, it got warm fast. According to the weather report, we set a record high of 88 degrees on Sunday. Yikes!
  • Aid station fiascos: some promised water/Powerade stations were not there at all (signs were up, but no tables or volunteers), and the station before mile 4 was backed up because they couldn’t keep up with the demand. Between miles 4 and 8, there was no water at all. Also, though Powerade was promised at every station, it was only available at a couple of them.
  • The hills: this was a very hilly course, to where by mile 18, I was walking up most of the hills.

Course highlights:

  • The start/finish line was in the heart of Downtown Atlanta, near Underground Atlanta.
  • From the starting line, we proceeded north on Peachtree St., turning right on Ralph McGill Blvd. to head east, away from the city.
  • Just before mile 2, we were heading south on Jackson St. From the bridge over Freedom Pkwy., there is a beautiful view of the downtown Atlanta skyline on the right.
  • At mile 2 was the Martin Luther King, Jr. complex on historic Auburn Ave.
  • Miles 3-4 took us along Edgewood Ave. to Inman Park, an historic district full of large, turn-of-the-century homes, then up to Euclid Ave. through Little Five Points, a shopping and entertainment district known for tattoo parlors and a biker bar called the “Euclid Avenue Yacht Club.” Along some of the stretch, the sun was just starting to rise over the trees, straight ahead–a beautiful sight.
  • From Euclid, we crossed Moreland Ave., where the half marathon split from the marathon. It was strange to be part of the smaller group continuing along McLendon Ave. for the full marathon.
  • Miles 4-7 took us north on Oakdale Rd., a residential street, up to South Ponce de Leon Ave. (the locals pronounce it “PONTZ duh LEE-ahn”–unfortunately, I’ve picked that up too, having lived here more than 15 years.) South Ponce is a beautiful, tree-lined side-street, with a large stretch of park separating it from the major thoroughfare to its north, Ponce de Leon Ave. (Hence, this is South Ponce.) South Ponce eventually joined the main Ponce, and we continued on until East Lake Drive.
  • Miles 7-9 took us from East Lake Drive to Dekalb Ave. westbound, until we could cross under the railroad tracks and head eastbound once again on College Ave. toward Decatur. As we entered the Decatur city limits, we saw “Burma-Shave” style signs: little poems with each verse on a separate sign. There must have been 10 sets of these, and it helped to break the monotony. An example:
    • First sign: Entering Decatur
    • Second sign: The best city on Earth!
    • Third sign: If you lived here…
    • Fourth sigh: You’d always be first!
  • Close to Mile 9, we passed Agnes Scott College, and shortly after that, we headed north, under the railroad tracks, into Downtown Decatur. There was a huge cheering section there, and it was great to see them all.
  • Miles 10-12 took us north on Clairemont Ave., and then west on North Decatur road, to Emory University.
  • Miles 12-16 took us through a series of north/south switchbacks through the Druid Hills neighborhood. The residents were out in droves, and they were greatly appreciated. Little kids were handing out dixie cups of water–very cute. But this was where the bad hills started (they call it “Druid Hills” for a reason). The Driving Miss Daisy house was somewhere along here, but at this point I was too fatigued to notice.
  • Miles 16-20 took us south on Briarcliff Road, then west on Freedom Parkway past the Carter Center (which includes the Jimmy Carter presidential library). We took Freedom Parkway all the way to Boulevard, where you see another gorgeous view of the downtown Atlanta skyline. But then, cruel course that this is, we made a U-turn and headed west again, back to the other end of Freedom Parkway to Ponce de Leon Ave.
  • Miles 20-22 took us about a block or so east along Ponce, and then into the Virginia-Highland neighborhood, a mix of residences, restaurants, and shops. Again, the residents were out in droves. Some had bowls of ice that they were handing out to cool us off, and others were spraying their hoses. Unbelievable that we would even need this in March, but we did!
  • Miles 22-23 took us through Piedmont Park, Atlanta’s signature city park, with a beautiful view of the Midtown Atlanta skyline over Lake Clara Meer. We exited the park on 10th St. near Charles Allen Dr., where we proceeded west up one of the nastiest hills on the course.
  • Miles 23-24: the 10th St. hill was bad enough, but then we turned north up Piedmont Ave. to another nasty hill, which continued as we turned west on 14th St.
  • Miles 24-26.2: south on Peachtree St. to the finish line downtown! Peachtree St. contains Atlanta landmarks such as the Margaret Mitchell House and the Fabulous Fox Theatre. This part of the course was mostly a blur for me. Somehow I managed to push myself to the finish line in 4:49:09, a PR for me.

Though there were certainly glitches in the logistics, especially with the water stations, this was a great race, and it’s something I look forward to running again. Hopefully with this first one down, they’ll learn from their mistakes, and next year’s ING Georgia Marathon will be even better.



1. quietbees - March 30, 2007

Congrats! Definitely sounds like you made the right choice! What an awesome race. One I hope to do in the future. As a former ASC student and also East Lake resident I think it would be fun running through the old haunts. I did the Atlanta 1/2 at Thanksgiving and this midwestern gal is definitely not used to the Hills of the South anymore. I will put this race in my book for next year I think.

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