‘A lot tougher,’ but kids rock revamped Anthem Peachtree Junior

Sarah Cartner was a little nervous at the starting line Wednesday, but she blames her parents.

The 12-year-old said mom and dad kept asking if she had enough water and telling her not to be nervous just before the Anthem Peachtree Junior.

“Leave me alone!” she remembered telling them.

It turns out no one needed to worry because Sarah ran her mile in 7 minutes and 20 seconds, earning her second place for her age division. The Canton girl was one of about 1,500 children (through age 14) who participated Wednesday, organizers said.

The fastest mile time of the day was 4 minutes and 37 seconds run by a 14-year-old Atlanta boy, according to race results.

The juniors race is usually held in May, but for the first time it was July 3 — the day before 60,000 people run the AJC Peachtree Road Race, dubbed the World’s Largest 10K.

READ | AJC Peachtree Road Race 2019: By the numbers

Instead of running almost entirely inside Piedmont Park like past years, the mile the children ran Wednesday included part of the 6.2-mile track through Midtown that runners will brave Thursday.

Rich Kenah, executive director of the host organization Atlanta Track Club, said organizers changed the date and route to make it more special for the children on this 50th running of the full race.

“It’s our responsibility to make the next generation of Atlantans learn about the Peachtree (Road Race) experience,” Kenah said as music blared from speakers during the award ceremony at Piedmont Park.

PHOTOS | Run time is fun time at Anthem Peachtree Junior

He said the Track Club will evaluate the new date and course route after this year, but he added that the changes"felt like the right thing to do."

Saleem Yasin, 9, said he enjoyed the new course. “This was one a lot tougher,” said Saleem, who has run the race twice before.

Credit: Ben Brasch/AJC

Credit: Ben Brasch/AJC

His mother Alia Talib, of Decatur, said she was proud to watch her son test himself.

“I think it’s good for him to see how fast you can go, see (him) running with his peers and build up his endurance,” she said.

As for endurance, temperatures in the mid-80s didn’t help when the mile race began about 8 a.m.

Audrey Woodall, 12, described the weather as hot and “miserable.”

Audrey was old enough to have run the full race (at least 10 years old on race day), but her mother Dacula native Melissa Shelton wouldn’t let her. Sixty thousand racers is too many people and it’s easy to get lost or overwhelmed, Shelton said.

In fact, that’s exactly why the youth-focused race began.

After directing her first AJC Peachtree Road Race in 1985, new track club executive director Julia Emmons got a letter from a woman saying many children running the race were in tears by the fifth mile.

READ | How big can it get? The AJC Peachtree Road Race prepares for its 50th

The next year, Emmons ran the race for herself to confirm. "Small children were struggling in a sea of giant adults, who in turn had to dodge the little ones," according to the AJC Peachtree Road Race website. Emmons created the juniors race, now in its 32nd year.

Wearing her second-place medal, Sarah Cartner stood beside her 9-year-old twin sisters Bethany and Moriah after the race Wednesday.

Credit: Ben Brasch/AJC

Credit: Ben Brasch/AJC

All three participated in the race and said they liked the award ceremony this year, which featured 2004 Olympic runner Carrie Tollefson along with three-time Olympic gold medal runner Gail Devers.

So which of the twins finished first?

They say they crossed the finish line together.

Indeed, the race results website confirms they both ran the mile in 7 minutes and 32 seconds.

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