Another year and another Peachtree Road Race yielded yet another strong contingent of runners from the city of Cartersville, which had 250 participants in the annual 10K on Monday.
For Cartersville resident Tommy Hall and at least 100 others from Bartow County, there is no better way to celebrate the Fourth of July. For a complete list of Bartow runners, see Page 4B.
"It's like going to a giant 6.2-mile celebration on the Fourth of July. They have all these live bands that play along the way. They even have a priest, about 2 miles out, that sprinkles holy water. I always get under him," Hall laughed. "It's just a wonderful celebration on the Fourth of July, especially when those jets flew over. I don't know how they got away with that. It was so loud you'd have thought it would have shattered a lot of those windows and skyscrapers, but it just sent chills up your back when those jets flew over."
As much as parades and barbecues and visits to the beach are a part of the Fourth of July holiday, Hall could not fathom how to spend the rest of that day without the Peachtree Road Race. Monday marked his 25th one. A friend of his, Tom Barnes, ran his 31st.
"I couldn't imagine going out to Dellinger Park and running, and not participating [in the Peachtree Road Race]," said the 65-year-old Hall. "Even when I get [to] where I can't run anymore, I'll probably go down there and work as a volunteer."
Despite the physical toll of running one of the nation's premier long-distance races, Hall returns year after year for more punishment.
"You start out running the Peachtree and the first 3 miles is all downhill and you think, 'Man, this is gonna be easy,'" he said. "Your running along and all of a sudden, you look up and there's this hill. It's called Cardiac Hill, and it's right there in front of Piedmont Hospital. You get up to the top of it and think, 'Man, thank God in heaven I made that. That's rough.'
"You run on around the curb a little bit, look up and there's one about twice the size of that one and they call it Heartbreak Hill," Hall laughed. "It's just great running through Atlanta on Peachtree Street. It's just lined with people all the way on both sides, cheering you on."
Making the experience even more enjoyable for Hall is the ability to share it with others from Cartersville.
"A lot of these runners that ran, we have a running group that runs every Saturday. We've been doing that now for about 10 years," Hall said. "It's kind of like being in a support group. You run. While you're running, you talk about what's going on in your life -- a lot of camaraderie with our running group. The Peachtree, and this Dellinger Kincaid they have in October, is just one of our main races that we run in -- plus we have the Duck Derby."
Hall believes that Cartersville-area runners benefit from living in an area that helps promote the sport with its facilities.
"We are so fortunate to have the facilities, the running trails. I've worked at a previous job where I traveled a lot, and when you start finding some of these other towns [without] a place to run, you wind up on a treadmill," said the Cartersville recreation board member. "So we're very fortunate and right now we're in the process of connecting the riverwalk trail with the Atco trail. That's gonna be really an asset to this county because you can run all the way from Atco out to the river. That's an amazing thing. It's gonna cross Mission Road."
But even with great places to run in Cartersville -- Dellinger Park, the Pine Mountain trail, etc. -- there is only one place for Hall and his running brethren on the Fourth.
"What a great opportunity it is to be able to celebrate the Fourth of July by participating in the Peachtree," Hall said. "It's just unbelievable how many people show up for it, support it. It takes a lot of people to volunteer; it takes 3,500 volunteers to pull that race off."