- Post 05 June 2012
- Hits: 1902
As Summer approached, in the summer of 1970, I was running about 80 miles a week, going to an occasional cinema (M.A.S.H, the movie, I remember) listening to hit songs like "Mama Told Me (not to come)" and "Band of Gold". I was looking forward to joining a new club in the Fall, Florida Track Club, as I started graduate school at Florida State University and wanted to build my mileage during the hot Atlanta Summer.
THE race organizer of that era in Atlanta was my friend Tim Singleton. At several events that Spring he told me about a new race he was setting up--running right down Peachtree Street into the middle of downtown Atlanta. At first I didn't believe him. Road races were few and far between in the South during that era, attracting an average of about 15-25 runners, on obscure streets that had little or no traffic. I entered the race just to see if Tim could pull it off.
Tim said the start was near the intersection of Peachtree and West Paces Ferry, and to park in Sears store parking lot at that location. I arrived as Tim and his family members were pulling out the registration materials out of the trunk of his car. It was after 9am and was already about 80F in bright, Atlanta sunshine. During the last half hour there were a number of runners from various parts of the South who drove up and registered. Thankfully this was before stores towed cars off their parking lots during holidays. We took up only a small portion of that lot.
At the appointed time, Tim called us to the start and all 110 of us lined up. I knew most of the runners and was surprised at how many had driven for hours to run on a holiday. During the Spring I had served as assistant track coach at Georgia Tech under Buddy Fowlkes. One of my athletes Joel Majors and we had continued to train together after the season and planned to run together for at least the first part of the race. The gun fired and my strategy was to look around after a mile to see who was close and whether they would be a serious threat to win. Joel and I separated from the others fairly soon so I thought that I had a great chance.
I didn't notice the temperature rise at first--to about 90F. I loved the downhill down to Peachtree Creek and just let momentum carry me. It was too fast for Joel. It wasn't called "Cardiac Hill" at the time, but running up to and Past Piedmont Hospital was not a major effort. But as I settled down on the gradual series of short downhills and longer uphills, with a comfortable lead, it was getting hot and there were 3+ miles to go.
Coming up the final uphill stretch past the old Davidson department store I had an exhilarating moment: we runners owned Peachtree Street that morning--there were very few cars seen. I supposed that Tim Singleton had done an amazing job of begging the city so that traffic would be blocked. Not so. Years later I asked Tim how he was able to get permission to stop traffic on Peachtree for a run in 1970 and told me it was easy: he didn't ask.
A handful of friends and family members were at the finish which is now at the North end of Woodruff Park. The first thing I did was jump in the fountain in front of the Equitable Building right at the finish.
There was no transportation back to the start, so most just ran back. As always, the sharing of memories and "war stories" made the return seem shorter than the trip out. Not only had we run down Peachtree, we had logged 12 miles that morning.
It was a glorious day!
Founder of Phidippides