For troops overseas, their own AJC Peachtree Road Race

Not just hours but whole days before Time Groups 1 through 9 take off for The AJC Peachtree Road Race through Atlanta on Saturday, Time Groups 10, 11 and 12 will run their own 10Ks in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.

Overseas military bases have been holding their own Peachtree races since 2004. This year, more than 3,200 runners are registered. Some are avid runners who've never heard of the Peachtree but want something special to do on Independence Day. Some, like Georgia Army National Guard Capt. Josh Lasley of Marietta, have run it in Atlanta and Iraq. This year, he'll run in Afghanistan.

Others will run in memory of their colleagues. Georgia Army National Guard Capt. Timothy Tatem of Savannah wrote from Iraq about Maj. Kevin Jenrette, who was from Lula, near Gainesville. Jenrette always ran the Peachtree with his wife, Shannon, to celebrate their July 3 wedding anniversary. He was killed in Afghanistan on June 4.

Jenrette "was not only one of our unit's fastest runners," Tatem wrote, "but he was a professional Soldier (and former Ranger Instructor) whom we all loved to fear ... firm, but fair."

They run the same distance, get the same T-shirt and joke that they have to go halfway across the Earth to get a spot in the race. Here's a look at how the overseas Peachtree races compare with Atlanta's.

• Atlanta times: Top-seeded runners take off at 7:30 a.m. July 4. The last time group starts at 8:56 a.m.

• Overseas times: To accommodate time zones, weather and work schedules, the earliest race begins at 7:30 a.m. July 3 in Kabul, Afghanistan, which is 10:30 p.m. July 2 in Atlanta. Most take off around 5 a.m. July 4 — the night of July 3 here.

• Atlanta routes: The race goes from Lenox Square down Peachtree Road and eventually into the green meadow at Piedmont Park.

• Overseas routes: All six overseas races have modified courses. And quirks. Several groups couldn't find 10 kilometers to run without crossing an airfield or entering danger zones, so they'll run two five-kilometer loops.

"I know the Atlanta version will be much more hilly," wrote Maj. Thomas McBroom, a Coweta County resident who is organizing the race in Tallil, Iraq. Runners there will have a view of the Great Ziggurat of Ur, a 100-foot step pyramid, for most of their race, he said.

In Afghanistan, there's no avoiding hills — or the difference in the thin air at 6,000 feet above sea level.

"There's no risk of Taliban attacks in ATL," Lasley wrote. "The snow covered peaks of the Hindu Kush mountain range is our backdrop. This does not compete with seeing the smiling faces, hugs, and kisses of my wife and kids at the finish line."

• July 4 traditions: Many Peachtree runners relax at Piedmont Park, catch a shower and a nap, then enjoy a cookout and some fireworks.

• Overseas July 4 traditions: "Every day here is a duty day," wrote 1st Sgt. Darren Brown, an overseas race coordinator who went from Fort McPherson to Afghanistan.

Col. Kathryn Hall-Boyer, an Atlanta Track Club member and surgeon based in Afghanistan, wrote there will be more music and sports than usual but they're all participating in a pre-holiday event, too: guessing which Peachtree Road Race T-shirt won the design contest. "I voted for my favorite online from here," she wrote. "No one else likes my choice but we have an informal poll going."

• Atlanta T-shirts: Nobody gets their T-shirt till they finish and the design is always a big reveal.

• Overseas T-shirts: Yep, they all get them, too, with Time Groups 10, 11 and 12 printed on the sleeve. Organizers promised to keep the design a secret and won't hand them out till the first have gone to the winners in Atlanta. "I promised to keep them under armed guard," McBroom wrote. "With the guard being me."