A real app to help with the virtual AJC Peachtree Road Race

Long-time runner Bill Thorn's collection of T-shirts from the Peachtree Road Race in Tyrone, Georgia, on Tuesday, October 13, 2020. Bill Thorn was presented the T-shirt for the annual Peachtree Road Race on Tuesday by the Atlanta Track Club. (Photo/Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Long-time runner Bill Thorn's collection of T-shirts from the Peachtree Road Race in Tyrone, Georgia, on Tuesday, October 13, 2020. Bill Thorn was presented the T-shirt for the annual Peachtree Road Race on Tuesday by the Atlanta Track Club. (Photo/Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Rebecca Wright

Credit: Rebecca Wright

After you’ve stretched and made sure your phone is charged, find the AJC Peachtree Road Race previously downloaded.

Put in your earbuds, close your eyes and as you start to run, it’s going to feel like a hot summer day with runners on either side of you as you begin the 6.2-mile run from Lenox Square to Piedmont Park.

At least that’s the hope of the Atlanta Track Club, which produced the app with developer Haku to try to provide the best experience possible for the running of this year’s virtual AJC Peachtree Road Race.

“At the end of July, it became clear that the in-person event we were planning for Thanksgiving was less and less likely,” Atlanta Track Club Executive Director Rich Kenah said. “We made the decision to ... lean into the virtual running of the AJC Peachtree Road Race.

“To have an event of this size, magnitude and importance we wanted to make sure we layered technology into the experience to deliver an authentic race day that people are accustomed to.”

The Atlanta Track Club began working with Haku in October. The app has been undergoing testing for the past few weeks to work out any bugs. If there are any, Kenah said that there is a link in the app that can be used to get help. It’s free to download the app, but to use it you must enter the email address used to register for the Peachtree Road Race.

“A great learning process to understand how to go from the first version to the polished version,” Kenah said. “It’s taken a lot of time and focus from (senior manager) Paula (Beebe) and the events department. We feel like we are inching toward the start line in a way that we will deliver on what was promised.”

Along with the race packets to the 45,000 people who registered and the development of the app, Kenah estimates more than $500,000 was spent to make the app to try to make the virtual race as real as it can be during a pandemic.

The app is similar to one designed by Haku for the Boston Marathon and then customized for the Peachtree Road Race.

When a runner begins to warm-up, the voice of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms will provide encouragement, just as if it were race day on the Fourth of July. A singer from Rome, Mikey Jones, performs the national anthem, just as he would during a normal race day. Just before the third mile, when runners would be passing in front of the Cathedral of St. Philip, a blessing is recited, just as it would during a normal race day. During the third mile, which typically would be when runners are climbing Cardiac Hill and reaching the Shepherd Center, three-time Wheelchair Division Daniel Romanchuk will provide encouragement through the app.

And then, when you have run your race, you time will be logged along with every one else who has used the app.

“The functionality of being able to finish a 10K and have your results thrown into the mix with 45,000 others around the world so that you can measure your Peachtree performance against others much like you can do like on the Fourth of July is something we are very much looking forward to,” Kenah said.

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