Race Report: Atlanta Half Marathon “Earn Your Turkey”

By: Trey Brush

This race has become a Thanksgiving Day tradition.  My first year was in 2006 and I have not missed a year since.  I feel like I have just about seen it all.  From beautiful weather and sunshine to temperatures in the teens, howling winds and even a year where the sky opened up and just poured on us.  November weather in Georgia can be a lot of things.  Expect the unexpected.

I have also seen a number of changes with this event as well.  When I first started running this race in 2006 it was also a part of the Atlanta Marathon on Thanksgiving day.  The full marathon started and finished around Turner Field and the Half Marathon was a point to point race that started northeast of downtown and ran down to Turner Field.  I am a big fan of point to point races so I do miss that course.  It really made it a unique race.

Having said that, I do think they have dialed in this race and have found the sweet spot.  Back in 2010 the Atlanta Track Club would take away the full marathon and have the Thanksgiving Day race become the half marathon only.  It was a logical decision because the number of people who were running the full marathon was very small.

I remember in 2009 I had run the half and rode our rail system back to the start area where the marathon runners were also running.  I remember thinking that I was done and they are just now halfway through and a long way to go on Thanksgiving Day.  I was so glad to be running the half marathon that day!  The number of runners for this race has always been strong.  The half marathon has usually had around 6,500 to 9,000 runners and the 5k has grown over the years to close to 3,000 runners now each year.

The course is in Atlanta, so expect hills.  The first 5-6 miles of the course are certainly the easiest portion and it gets challenging the second half of the race.  As you leave Turner Field and go to Centennial Olympic Park and Atlantic Station you will feel fast as most of this section is “Atlanta flat”.  After you leave Atlantic Station and head for Piedmont Park the race changes.  Your first big challenge is running up 14th Street up to Peachtree Street.  This is a long hard climb and you just have to be patient.

You soon enter into the park and will exit the park onto 10th street.  If you have run the Peachtree, you know 10th Street.  It is the nice downhill finish in that race.  In this race you go the opposite direction and have a tough climb.  You eventually run on Juniper and Courtland and deal with the rolling hills and have a chance to recover just a bit from some hard climbs.  Your next hard climb is after mile 9 going under 75/85 on John Wesley Dobbs. This is probably the toughest of the day, but you will deal with hills the rest of the race.You pass places like the Oakland Cemetery and the Capital Building before you return to Turner Field.

This is always a race that I have enjoyed and the past couple of years I have participated in the Triple Peach.  The Triple Peach is the Peachtree Road Race (10k), Atlanta 10 Miler and it concludes with the Atlanta Half Marathon.  I feel like it took a few years, but I think the Atlanta Track Club has figured out nice distance races to help close the year.

Next year….you should earn your turkey and join me in Atlanta on Thanksgiving Day.

Trey is a runner and coach with a desire to help create change in others.  He lost 80 pounds on his journey from a watcher in life to a doer.  His passion for running and creating change led him from the couch to marathons and ultramarathons.  He is a husband and the father of 2 boys living in Jefferson GA.  You can follow Trey on twitter @RunOnPurpose