Answering questions about the AJC Peachtree Road Race going virtual

Runners make their way down Peachtree Road during the 50th AJC Peachtree Road Race on Thursday, July 4, 2019, in Atlanta.

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The Atlanta Track Club announced Wednesday that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race will not be run as an in-person race for the first time ever, dating to the race’s founding in 1970, because of the safety concerns regarding COVID-19. Fans and participants of this cherished Atlanta tradition undoubtedly have questions about the decision. Here are answers to some of them.

Q: What’s happening with the race?

A: In postponing the Peachtree from July 4 to Nov. 26, the track club had hoped that the spread of COVID-19 would be subdued enough to enable the world’s largest 10-kilometer race to be run safely on Thanksgiving Day. But, with the community spread still pervasive in the state of Georgia, the club decided to not run an in-person race but a virtual version instead. Since the race’s inception in 1970, it will be the first time that an in-person Peachtree will not be run.

“As coronavirus has spiked in recent weeks here in Georgia, we recognize that this decision is the best and only responsible way forward,” track club executive director Rich Kenah said in a statement.

Q: How will the virtual Peachtree work?

A: Runners and walkers can design a 6.2-mile course of their choosing. The track club will create an app that will enable participants to track their times and measure their performance against other finishers. The app also will play the sounds of the Peachtree, such as the blessings offered by Rev. Sam Candler of the Cathedral of St. Philip along the race course.

“Those course experiences are what make Peachtree special, and that’s what we’re going to lean into,” Kenah said.

For their race times to be counted, participants must complete their 10K during the 24 hours of Thanksgiving Day.

Kenah said that he was confident that, for entrants disappointed by the cancellation of the in-person event, “by the end of the day on Thanksgiving, they’ll be pleased with the outcome and be looking forward to July 4 of 2021.”

Q: What options did the track club have to run it in-person?

A: The club looked at staging four smaller races over the course of Thanksgiving weekend (Thursday-Sunday) in different parts of metro Atlanta, and spreading the race start over a window of potentially 10 to 12 hours in order to keep runners and walkers socially distanced. They would have also had to supply their own hydration. However, Kenah said, “the scale of the event just made it too difficult.”

Q: How many are entered for the race?

A: About 34,000. There were 45,000 people who registered for the July 4 Peachtree. Of those, about 11,000 chose to run the Peachtree virtually on Independence Day, defer their entry to 2021, donate the $42 entry fee or ask for a refund.

On Aug. 31, the track club will open registration for those who would like to join the field. Registration will remain open until the field fills at the 60,000 cap.

Q: What about the T-shirts?

A: While receiving the finisher’s T-shirt at the end of the race is part of Peachtree tradition, such a possibility is obviously not possible. Instead, the track club will ship the T-shirts, race bibs and what Kenah called “a number of other swag items” to participants before Thanksgiving Day.

ExploreSee the 2020 AJC Peachtree Road Race T-shirt designs

The T-shirts are the same as those created for the July 4 race with an additional screening created for the Thanksgiving event.

Q: Why not a new shirt made specially for the occasion?

A: There were a couple of reasons for not creating a new shirt, Kenah said. One, the design was selected in a vote, and the track club thought it was the right thing to do to stick with that choice. Two, sustainability has become a focus of the track club in recent years, Kenah said, “so trashing 60,000 shirts just didn’t feel right.”

Q: What about 2021?

A: “The assumption that the Atlanta Track Club is making right now is (that) in-person endurance events will continue to be challenged into the first quarter of 2021,” Kenah said. “But by registration period next year, and by July 4, we hope and believe that the reality on the ground here in Atlanta will allow us to return to the tradition that everyone knows and loves.”

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