Last week, I chaperoned a trip with 42 high school students in Atlanta, Georgia. Most of my travels typically revolve around marathons, but the purpose of this trip was to bring students to the annual national conference for a marketing club called DECA. As a chaperone, we are given a list of activities that are available for the students while we are in town for the conference and are asked to choose a few activities to attend and chaperone. Coincidentally, one of the activities was a 5K, hosted by The Finish Line. This year, the DECA Dash 5K was held to benefit muscular dystrophy. So naturally, I had to sign up to chaperone that event. I couldn’t let the poor kids go and run a 5K with no chaperone, now could I?
Several chaperones and a handful of students from our school signed up to participate, which added to the excitement. The start was walking distance from our hotel, and we met in the lobby to walk together. It was an early start, 7am. Usually, I am typically partial to earlier races but we spent the day prior to the race traveling and on our feet. I woke up pretty tired and slightly dehydrated, but still excited. I hadn’t run a 5K since November, and that was coming off of my stress reaction in my tibia and a successful marathon on sketchy training due to said injury.
The start was pretty similar to any other race, except for one little negative: the race started 10 minutes late. When people get all pumped up for a race but end up waiting around, it’s a bit of a buzzkill. Eventually, we were off for our 3.1 mile tour of downtown Atlanta. I’ll be completely honest: I really wanted to either PR or win the race (or both) so I just focused on the road ahead of me and the people around me. Luckily, I got to see lots of the city by foot on my morning runs in the days following the race because I honestly couldn’t tell you much about what I saw on the course.
What I do remember is that it was rolling hills – nothing crazy, no steep climbs or intense descents. A cross country/track runner from our school started with me and we ran the first mile together. By the first quarter mile, we were still running together and were in the lead so we kept a steady pace to maintain our spots. When we hit the second mile, we slowed down a little because we also hit some of the rolling hills and had settled in to a reasonable pace. I noticed a third girl in relatively close proximity to us – she had on a sparkley headband and it caught my eye. She passed us so I turned up the pace a little, but the girl from our school didn’t follow me. I was hoping for her to catch me again towards the end so we could finish the race together. I passed the girl with the sparkley headband almost immediately and didn’t see her again.
I was almost certain I had the lead at that point, but I found out for sure when I rounded a corner and blew through one of the water stops. I heard one of the volunteers yell, “first female!” as I ran by and I got excited. The finish line was right near the Georgia Dome/World Congress Center, where the race began. The course rounded a corner and hit a final straightaway and I could see the clock. I knew I was going to finish sub-20, which has been my goal for the past four years. I just never run enough 5Ks to give it a good shot, and this came at a really good time.
My official time was 19:45, a PR by 44 seconds (previous 5K PR was 20:24) and I was 1/642 women and 21/1077 runners. The girl from our school came in second, beating the girl with the sparkley headband by two seconds. It was a great day. The other students and chaperones all crossed the finish line with smiles on their faces, and ran great races. I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off the trip.
The rest of our time in Atlanta was super busy for the kids and the chaperones. Lots of late nights making sure kids were in their rooms by curfew, and early mornings to assist the students in getting to their conference events on time. It didn’t leave a lot of time for long miles, but I did get in a few general aerobic and recovery runs while in town. There are definitely some sketchy areas in Atlanta, but our hotel was located on Peachtree Street and accessing some nicer areas was easy enough. On the first day I had the chance to get out running alone, I found Piedmont Park. To get there, I just had to run down Peachtree Street towards midtown Atlanta and was able to easily access the entrance to the park.
The hotel concierge told me I’d have the best chance of finding good running trails if I headed to Piedmont Park, and he was right. There was a short loop around the park, the “Active Oval”, and trails everywhere that led to the Atlanta Belt line. The short loop that ended up being my “daily loop” was a path that went around a lake in the park. Flat, shaded and peaceful. At the parks entrance, you could bear left and find the “Active Oval”, which was really just like a nice, over-sized cinder track. The trails around the park took you through meadows and fields, and eventually I found the Atlanta Belt Line. The Belt Line is a 33 mile trail system that runs all over Atlanta. I got to run on a small segment of it the day I went exploring, and then ran back to Peachtree Street to return to the hotel.
The rest of the running I did wasn’t quite as leisurely because we were ultimately there for work and I was responsible for a group of kids. I managed to squeeze in a few miles around that pretty little lake in that gorgeous park a few more times before the trip ended. There is an Atlanta Marathon in March, but I’m not sure I’m too interested in that one for Georgia. I’d like to see a different part of the state when I return to knock it off of my list. I enjoyed running through the city and highly recommend doing a few miles in Piedmont Park if you find yourself visiting Atlanta.