Friday, November 25, 2011

Support Your Local Running Stores during Small Business Saturday

It’s Black Friday and there’s no doubt about it ....the holiday shopping season has arrived. Crowds mob the aisles and parking lots of national retailers to score deals on merchandise.

If you’ve got a runner on your gift list, consider spending your dollars with a locally-owned business. American Express launched Small Business Saturday last year to encourage shoppers to include small businesses on their holiday shopping list.

Here in Atlanta, we’ve got plenty of local running stores to choose from. Do your part to help support businesses that in turn support our communities.

Big Peach Running Co.
With six locations in the metro Atlanta area, Big Peach Running Co. is a local chain that delivers a neighborhood experience. I like the fact that my neighborhood store in Decatur hosts group runs on Tuesday and Thursday evenings along with Saturday mornings. Store hours on Saturday are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Fleet Feet
Fleet Feet is a nationwide chain, but its stores are individually owned and operated by local small business owners. Fleet Feet Decatur's owners, Clay and Karen Scarborough, live in walking distance to their store -- you don't get more local than that. They’ll gladly welcome your business on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

One Step At A Time
Charles Cope opened his running store in the neighborhood where he grew up. One Step At A Time has called the Oakhurst neighborhood of Decatur home for 10 years. The Oakhurst Running Club meets at the store for its Wednesday night and Saturday morning runs. Store hours on Saturday are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Atlanta’s Olympic great, Jeff Galloway, started Phidippides in the 70’s. A true visionary, Jeff recognized the need to offer both novice and experienced runners a shopping experience where they could get advice from staff trained in the science of shoe fitting. Phidippides’ two Atlanta locations are opened on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

West Stride
West Stride’s owner, Genie Beaver, hosts some of the best training runs I’ve joined. Genie greets runners with a warm welcome, beverages along with running routes and a great post-run spread of breakfast treats. Genie’s also a big supporter of Girls On The Run, on of my favorite youth programs. West Stride is open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Watch Out for Zombies! New Road Race Series Comes to North Georgia

The TV-show, The Walking Dead, featured a commercial for a different type of road race in 2012. Promoted as a “zombie-infested” event, the Run for Your Life 5K race has both natural and unnatural (e.g. zombies) obstacles along the course. The nationwide series lists Atlanta as an event site, but actually it’s taking place in Union Point, GA … a nearly two-hour drive from the metro Atlanta area.

So what the heck is a zombie-obstacle course? And what can runners expect?

Here are a few highlights from the event site:

Yes, there will be zombie.
Race organizers don’t disclose too many details about the types of zombies runners can expect (e.g. are they “walking dead” or “running dead” zombies?). Runners are encouraged to train well and prepare for the unexpected.

How exactly does this race work?
It’s a mash-up of flag football and obstacle course. Runners wear belts with “health” flags. While it may be fun to think the zombies are after your brains, what they really want are the “health” flags. Loose all your flags and you loose the race.

Party like it’s the end of the world.
Race organizers promise a party to die for. While there’s no line-up listed for the Atlanta area event, the Apocalypse Party will feature live bands, food, drinks and a marketplace. With a nearly two-hour drive from metro Atlanta, runners may want to consider the camping package.

Keep your hands to yourself.
With an event that has the potential to be as chaotic as a zombie-themed obstacle course, it’s not surprising that there are a few rules. Even though runners are being chased by zombies, participants are prohibited from intentional contact with the zombies or other participants. Weapons (such as axes to kill zombies) are banned. Pets and small children are also not permitted. Otherwise, have a good time.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hey Atlanta … Hit the Trail with The North Face® Endurance Challenge

Last year, The North Face Endurance Challenge made its debut at Georgia’s F.D. Roosevelt State Park. The event was blessed with fine weather and robust participation. My friend and colleague, Kevin Coffey, ran the 10K race and loved the experience. He’ll be back on the trail this year running the half-marathon distance.

The following video gives an overview of the fun and thrills runners can expect:

This year’s event promises to offer the same exhilarating scenery and challenging terrain. Here’s what you can expect:

• A range of seven races suited for runners of varying abilities … from the 5K to the Gore-Tex® 50-Mile run.
• Single-track trails with lots of natural obstacles (e.g. tree roots, rocks, bushes, branches).
• An environmentally-conscience event. On-site efforts include recycling bins, complimentary water bottles, filling stations and sustainable practices in keeping with Leave No Trace. Runners also get a redemption code to receive a virtual race bag.
• Pre-Race Panel discussion featuring legendary trail running champion Dean Karnazes.

The participant’s guide offers plenty of details, including course maps and descriptions of the terrain for each race event. With registrations outpacing last year’s inaugural event, you can expect a good crowd.

Not up for a trail race? Consider volunteering. According to organizers, volunteer help is essential to the event’s success. As you can imagine with an event of this magnitude, there is a wide range of volunteer jobs … everything from parking to food tents and aid stations.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Atlanta Runners … Support Your Community by Running for Your Community

Runners are an altruistic bunch. We’re ready to lace up our shoes to help support a good cause … whether for a local charity or a nation-wide movement. Here are a few races that give you an opportunity to do your part for the community.

Be The One Run – September 24
Part of a nationwide fundraising event, Be The One Run assists patients in need of bone marrow transplants. Runners hit the starting line at Atlantic Station for the 1K and 5K races. Can’t make the race? You can still help by donating. Details are available at the event site.

7200 Steps to Stop Demand 5K – October 1
Child prostitution is an ongoing problem in Georgia. According to the Juvenile Justice Fund, more than 400 adolescent girls are prostituted each month in the state. This 5K race seeks to recruit public support to help end this devastating crime. Runners will gather at Mary Lin Elementary School in Candler Park for the 8:30 a.m. start time. Online registration is available at

Firefly Run – October 1
This race combines kid-like fun with a serious mission – support U.S. soldiers and their families. With an 8 p.m. start time in Piedmont Park, runners receive glow-in-the-dark accessories to get illuminated for the race. Proceeds benefit Operation Once in a Lifetime, which is committed to aiding soldiers and their families with financial support.

Morningside Mile – October 16
The Virginia-Highland Community has a well-deserved reputation for hosting great races, including the O’Highlands Jig & Jog and the Christmas 5K. The Morningside Mile is dedicated to supporting a local neighborhood icon … the historic Fire Station No. 19. Run the one-mile race and stick around to enjoy the block party. Your race swag includes an event shirt, commemorative pint glass, and a free Sweetwater beer or yogurt at the party. Sign-up at Phidippides’ Ansley Mall location or online at

Whether you’re training for a fall race or just looking for a good running route, consider this four-miler through Virginia-Highland and Inman Park.

Virginia-Highland to Inman Park - 4 miles:
• Start at the corner of Virginia Ave and N. Highland Ave.
• Run down N. Highland Ave towards Ponce de Leon Ave.
• Cross Ponce and Freedom Parkway
• Turn left on Cleburn Ave.
• Turn left on Seminole Ave.
• Turn right on Sinclair Ave.
• Sinclair merges into Austin
• Turn left on Elizabeth Ave.
• Turn right on Euclid Ave.
• Turn left on Moreland Ave.
• Turn left on Mansfield Ave.
• Turn right on Seminole Ave.
• Turn right on Cleburn Ave.
• Turn right on N. Highland Ave End run at N. Highland and Virginia

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Atlanta Fall Races are Just Around the Corner

Believe it or not, Labor Day is only weeks away. And with fall comes the promise of cooler weather. There are plenty of road races scheduled for the fall running season. Here are a few to check out.

Big Peach Sizzler 10K – Labor Day (September 5)
While Peachtree Road in Buckhead is usually crowded with cars, runners get to own the street during this race. It kicks off at the Chamblee MARTA station and ends at the Buckhead Station Shopping Center. And you can get a head start on your Peachtree Road Race qualifying time. Proceeds from the event support research and families affected by Cystic Fibrosis. Register online or at Big Peach locations.

Avondale Estates Labor Day 5K – September 5
Avondale Estates is one of my favorite neighborhoods to run through. Wide streets, rolling hills and charming homes. With a 9:00 a.m. start, runners get a chance to sleep in a bit before hitting the streets. The event benefits the ALS Association, an illness better know as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Register online or at the Avondale Estates City Hall.

Kaiser Permanente Corporate Run/Walk – September 8
Join your co-workers and compete for the title of “Most Fit Company” in Atlanta. Turner Field plays host to the race. More than 15,000 participants are expected – fortunately, walkers will line up behind runners and will be advised to stay to the right of the race course. Participants are encouraged to support the Atlanta Community Food Bank by bringing canned food. More information is available at the event site.

Legal Run Around 5K – September 10
Who knew lawyers had a sense of humor? The Atlanta Bar Association hosts this annual run in Piedmont Park. Proceeds benefit a scholarship fund of children of Atlanta police officers killed or severally injured in the line of duty. Not up for the 8:30 a.m. start time? Support the event as a phantom runner. Registration and details available at

FirEdUp! 5K – September 17
Virginia-Highlands is a great running neighborhood. And the residents have a strong commitment to serve community needs. This race functions as a scholarship fundraiser for college-bound seniors at Grady and Washington High Schools. The 8:30 a.m. start kicks off outside Atlanta Fire Station 19, located at the corner of Highland and Los Angeles. As an added bonus, runners get hosed down by a fire truck on the course. Registration available at the Phidippidies Ansley Mall, Fire Station 19 or online at

This week's running route:
Looking for a shady neighborhood course? Check out the race route for the Avondale Estates Labor Day 5K.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Georgia’s Running Man

Last Thursday, the AJC featured a story from Macon about Thad Childs, a man who has not missed a day of running in the past 32 years. That calculates to more than 11,800 days and over 87,000 miles. Thad’s dedication to running has taken him to the Boston Marathon and beyond - including a 100-mile race that runs through the Sierra Nevada.

Runners are known for their devotion to the sport. Rain or snow … morning or night … we hit the road to get our fix of fitness and endorphins. Running not only makes you physically feel better, it’s also a cheap form of therapy. Whenever I feel mentally restless or frustrated, a good run helps ease my mind and gain a refreshed perspective. Thad takes that same approach … combining the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of running to help bring harmony in his life.

This summer’s unrelenting mix of heat and humidity has made it tempting for me to skip my outdoor runs. Yes, I could try the treadmill but I’d much rather deal with Mother Nature than the monotony of running indoors.

So fellow runners, what gets you out the door? Is it the drive to keep up a streak like Thad’s? A desire to maintain (or build) your fitness level? Or something else?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Gridiron Trail Rush: A Football + Trail Race Mash-up

While the NFL’s lockout and contract negotiations have keep football fans preoccupied, the college season is just around the corner. Metro Atlanta is home to die-hard fans from SEC schools and beyond just itching for college football kick-off.

So why am I writing about football? Well, there’s a new trail race next month that takes a unique spin on blending a 5K trail run with a football-themed obstacle course. But the competition isn’t limited to the course – declare your team allegiance when you register and gain a portion of the proceeds for your school. The more runners declared for your school, the more money earned. For example, a portion of the proceeds from Georgia fan runners will go to the Arch Foundation.

The Gridiron Trail Run takes place August 13 in Conyers at the Georgia International Horse Park. Some of the more unique challenges you’ll find on the race course include:

• An entry tunnel that serves as the starting line
• Holding a football in your hand during the race
• Stepping through tires
• Dodging tackle dummies
• Running through mud

In true football style, there’s an after-party with food, drinks, music and alumni tents. If this race appeals to you, register before August 1 to avoid the $10 increase in the entry fee. Running with a group of fans? There’s a discount for groups with more than 5 registrants at a time. Details are available at the Gridiron Trail Rush event site.

Looking for a running route close to your neighborhood or office? Check out Just enter your zip code and links to dozens of nearby routes appear.

Editor's note: Photo courtesy of Gridiron Trail Rush event site.

Editor's Note: Photo courtesy of Gridiron Trail Rush event site.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tips to Survive Summer Running

It’s nearing the middle of July and the summer heat is unforgiving. While the treadmill is an option during hot weather, I’m just not a fan of running inside. So what’s a runner to do? Consider these tips for keeping your run safe and sensible during summer.

Run in the morning: Early morning runs can help you escape the intense conditions of summer heat. In fact, temperatures can be 20-degrees cooler at 6 a.m. vs. 12:00 p.m. If you do choose to run in the morning, partner with a friend (or dog) and wear reflective gear to stay visible to cars.

Hydrate before bed: Your hydration routine should actually start the night before. The August issue of Runner’s World recommends drinking 20-ounces of water three hours before heading to bed. Why? According to Runner’s World, it helps boost blood-plasma flow and enhances your body’s ability to cool itself during your run.

Cool off with a frozen drink: Here’s another interesting tip from Runner’s World I never considered. Sipping a frozen drink an hour before your run can help lower your core body temperature.

Stay hydrated during your run: Maintaining proper hydration helps keep your body safe – literally. Heat stroke is a potentially deadly condition. Consider drinking water every 15 minutes during your run to replace fluids lost from sweat.

Run a shaded route: Find a tree-lined sidewalk or path for you run. Escaping direct exposure to the sun makes a difference. Wear a visor (and not a hat) to keep your face shaded for those periods when you are in the sun.

For more tips and information, check out Runner’s World. Here’s a route through Decatur that offers plenty of options for shade (courtesy of Big Peach Running and Nike Run Club). You can pick up a copy of the route map at the Decatur Big Peach store.

Decatur 4-Mile Run:
• Start at Big Peach. Facing E. Trinity, turn left and cross the railroad tracks onto S. Candler.
• Take a right onto Green St. and continue through the nature path.
• Cross over S. McDonough and head down Oakview Rd.
• Stay straight on Oakview and veer right onto E. Lake Dr.
• Go underneath the bridge and turn right on E. Parkwood Rd.
• Turn right on Upland.
• Turn right on W. Ponce de Leon Ave.
• Turn right on W. Trinity and head back to Big Peach.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Peachtree Road Race: Etiquette Tips for Running with the Crowd

The Peachtree Road Race prides itself in being the largest 10K race in the world. This year’s event will welcome 60,000 participants to the starting line. Running with that many people coupled with Atlanta’s infamous mixture of heat and humidity can make it a challenge to keep your cool during the race.

The July issue of Runner’s World offered some useful (and hilarious) tips for keeping your behavior respectable during a road race event:

  • Alert other runners before you pass: If you plan to pass runners on the road, give a shout out (e.g. “passing on your left”) before making your move. Doing so will help avoid awkward collisions with other runners.

  • Don’t run more than two abreast: I’ve seen it before at the Peachtree – groups of people holding hands while running. What they don’t always realize is they are blocking the route for other runners to pass. Don’t be one of these people.

  • Look before you expel: This is a funny, but good tip. Watch where you spit or blow. Nobody wants to be the “landing strip” for what you’ve hurled.

  • If you have to stop, move out of the way first: When grabbing a cup of water or tying your shoe, move to the side of the street and avoid becoming a road block for other runners.

  • Don’t be a litter bug: Try to toss your water cups and other trash in garbage cans along the race course. If you must toss on the ground, watch out for other runners first.

  • Deodorant yes; cologne no: Be respectful of those around you and save the cologne or perfume for your “after race” shower. It’s no fun running behind a toxic aroma of sweat and cologne.

  • Smile: Yes, it’s hot and humid. But you signed up for the race to have a good time. Make the most of it by wearing a smile. You’ll feel better and so will the other runners around you.

The Atlanta Track Club blog offers some great advice for staying hydrated during a run. Be sure to check it out before hitting the race course on Monday.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer’s Here … And So Are Plenty of Atlanta 5Ks

The temperature is rising, but that doesn’t mean the race schedule slows down. In fact, there are more than 25 road races taking place in the Metro Atlanta area just in the month of June. Lace up your shoes and join your neighbors.

Atlanta Children’s Shelter – June 11
This race takes place in Piedmont Park, which is a favorite spot for runners. As you probably guessed from the event title, proceeds support the Atlanta Children’s Shelter (ASC). The Shelter assists homeless families by providing free, quality daycare for children.

Hand Around the Hill/Race to House the Homeless – June 11
Grant Park is one of Atlanta’s loveliest historic neighborhoods and runners will get to see it up close during this 5K race. The event benefits two organizations dedicated to serving the homeless – Central Night Shelter and Central Outreach & Advocacy Center. The race starts at Talmadge Park, located at the corner of Mitchell and Washington Streets.

Dash4Dad – June 18
Here’s a unique way to celebrate the Father’s Day weekend-- run a 5K that raises money to prevent deaths from prostate cancer. The race kicks-off in the parking lot of the Dunwoody Home Depot at 8 a.m. All proceeds benefit ZERO – The Project to End Prostate Cancer. It’s part of a nationwide series of races that support prostate cancer research.

Save Our Skin – June 25
In its 5th year, the Save Our Skin 5K aims to foster awareness about skin cancer. Dermatologists are on hand to provide free skin cancer screenings for participants from 7 to 10 a.m. The race takes place at Perimeter Mall.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Green Ideas for Sweetwater 420 Fest 5K: Candler Park N. O. and Sweetwater Weigh In

Last month, I provided a recap of the Sweetwater 420 Fest 5K with a few ideas for making it a greener event. Well, I heard back from both the Candler Park Neighborhood Organization (which manages the 5K) and from Sweetwater Brewery (which hosts the Fest). Both offered some interesting feedback on my suggestions – enough to warrant a separate blog post.

Here’s what I learned:

No water stations: With an April race date, I questioned whether water stations were really necessary. The weather was mild for this year’s race, but that wasn’t the case in 2010 when temperatures were much warmer. According to Dave Aynes with the Candler Park Neighborhood Organization (CPNO), the group was criticized in 2010 for not having enough water stations. As Dave shared with me, CPNO is interested in ideas to make the race greener. One way runners can do their part is to bring their own water bottles.

Reduce trash - Sell beer in commemorative mugs: When I suggested this idea, I thought it was a “no brainer.” Boy, was I wrong. Per Steve Farace with Sweetwater, “We did that the first year and it turned into a nightmare game of twister trying to refill specific cups.” Understood – trying to keep track of which beer cup belongs to which person when there are dozens of people in line is a logistical mess. Dave with CPNO also mentioned that “some health departments don’t technically allow it (think new buffet plate).”

Offer a compost bin for banana peels: With 2,000 participants at the race, I suggested offering a compost bin to collect the peels instead of trash cans. This appears to be the only idea I offered that may be easy to implement. If you’re running the race next year, be on the look-out for compost bins.

I’d like to thank both Dave Aynes and Steve Farace for sharing feedback on my blog post. There are a multitude of factors involved with operating an event – particularly one as large as the Sweetwater 420 Fest and 5K. While the hosts of these events strive to be green, it has to be balanced with the needs to make sure the event is also safe and enjoyable.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Race Review: Take Back The Night 5K

For the past few years, I’ve wanted to run this race. But my bad habit of procrastination meant I always missed registering for the event. Not this year. I got my act together and signed up the day before the race.

And it was great. A good neighborhood turnout in Decatur, an evening start time and tasty post-race food. I’m a big fan of races that don’t start in the morning – after all, I’m already getting up early for work 5 days a week. The course was hilly, particularly at the start. After the race, runners were treated to pizza and frozen yogurt. I’m sure it was a bit of challenge to keep the yogurt cold, but it was the best post-race treat I’ve ever had – a nice change from bananas and dry bagels.

The event was in support of the DeKalb Rape Crisis Center (DRCC) and it’s part of Decatur’s Grand Slam series, which encourages Decatur residents to participate in 4 out of 6 neighborhood races. The t-shirts displayed along the fence featured messages of hope and survival – which appear to have been created by clients of DRCC.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sweetwater 420 5K: Fun Beer Run Could Be Greener

The Sweetwater 420 5K had three features that I love in a race:

1.) Late morning start time (11 a.m.)

2.) Great intown route (which I could bike to)

3.) Beer after the race (who doesn’t love beer?)

And it was a fun race. The weather was sunny and slightly warm and the route was enjoyable. The Sweetwater 420 Fest bills itself as an eco-conscience event with the tag line “We’re here for a good time. She’s here for a long time.” wrapped around an image of planet earth. Like a lot of people these days, I strive to be environmentally responsible. However, I felt certain aspects of the race could have been more eco-friendly.

Here are my ideas on making the Sweetwater 420 5K a greener event:

No water stations Waxed-coated water cups littered the street at the two water stations along the route. For a 5K, there’s really no need for hydration stations – especially for a race hosted in April where heat is not an issue. Wax-coated cups cannot be recycled. Instead, hand out plastic water bottles at the finish line.

Reduce trash - Sell beer in commemorative mugs While music is a big part of the fest, the real star is Sweetwater’s beer. And lots of it is sold at the event in plastic cups. The recyclable cups proudly promote being made from plant-based plastics, yet I saw a lot of them dumped in waste bins designated for trash instead of the recycling bins. Let’s face it -- people under the influence of beer don’t always make the best decisions. Instead of serving each beer in a new plastic cup, sell the first beer in a commemorative mug (for $2 or $3 more) and refills for $6 each. The result will raise more money for community organizations and reduce festival trash.

Offer a compost bin for banana peels At the end of the race, runners were offered bananas and bagels while they waited to get their festival wrist bands. With 2,000 runners, that produces a lot of banana peels. Instead of throwing food trash in a waste bin, why not offer the option of a compost bin? The compost could be used to fertilize the landscape around Candler Park.

Overall, this is a fun event and I’m glad a local company like Sweetwater is an advocate for conservation. I plan to share my ideas with the folks at Sweetwater and I’ll let you know what I hear back from them.

UPDATE 5/9/2011: Both the Candler Park Neighborhood Organization and Sweetwater provided feedback on my ideas which I shared in a new blog post.

Here’s the 5K route from yesterday’s race:

• Start on McClendon Avenue (by Epworth United Methodist Church)

• Head west, running past Candler Park

• Turn right on Euclid Terrace

• Veer right onto Euclid Avenue

• Turn left on Fairview Avenue

• Turn right on S. Ponce de Leon Avenue

• Turn right on Fairview Avenue

• Turn left on Oakdale Road

• Turn left on North Avenue

• Turn right on Candler Park Drive

• Turn right on Benning Place

• Turn left on Oakdale Road

• Turn left on McClendon Avenue

• Turn left on Candler Park Drive

• Finish at the corner of Miller Avenue and Candler Park Drive

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tour Decatur Race Recap

What a terrific day for a run! Over 1,700 people signed up for this neighborhood race in support of Decatur schools. And it was truly a community event. Each Decatur elementary school fielded a team of students (joined by parents) while Decatur High School students served as event volunteers. As a parent, it was a great experience to run the 1-Mile Fun Run with my child and her friends. We ran the city block that circled around Decatur High and the school’s football stadium. At the finish line, student runners proudly received a medal to commemorate their success. The 5K runners hit the road after the Fun Run – and the rain fortunately held off until after the race.

Tour Decatur celebrated its ninth year and race organizers do a great job of running an efficient yet friendly and slightly informal event. Despite the number of people who participated in the race, I saw several friends and neighbors – and that makes an event really fun. Proceeds from Tour Decatur benefit the Decatur Education Foundation which serves the needs of students in the Decatur school system.

Looking for a good 5K route? Here’s the course for yesterday’s Tour Decatur:

• Start at Decatur High School on N. McDonough Street

• Head south, running past the high school and turn right on Howard Avenue

• Turn right on Commerce

• Turn right on W. Trinity

• Turn right on N. McDonough (head past the high school again)

• Turn right on Howard

• Turn right on Patillo Way

• Turn left on Greenwood Circle

• Turn right on Ridley Lane

• Turn left on Hibernia

• Turn right on Greenwood Circle

• Turn right on Howard Avenue

• Turn right on Adair

• Turn right on Ponce de Leon

• Turn right on Trinity

• Turn right on N. McDonough

• End at Decatur High School

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tour deCatur: Run for Kids with the Kids

Most road races are geared towards adults. Sure, you’ll typically see a handful of kids running with a parent. But for the most part, it’s grown-ups who are running the races. That’s not the case with Tour deCatur.

Started by Kira Wilsterman, who’s the P.E. Coach at Clairemont Elementary, Tour deCatur is geared around kids. Decatur elementary schools host track clubs that help students train for the race’s 1-Mile Fun Run. Last year’s event hosted 1,200 participants – with school-age kids representing a notable number of the runners. Proceeds from Tour deCatur support schools in Decatur through the Decatur Education Foundation.

My husband and I have been runners for years, so I was excited to sign my child up for the track club team at her school. Tour deCatur will be our first opportunity to run a road race as a family and I hope the experience will foster a love of running for her.

Interested in joining the fun? There’s still time to register for the race. Sign-up online until March 22 (that’s tomorrow) or at the event (registration starts at 7:30 a.m.). The 1-Mile Fun Run starts at 8:45 a.m. and the 5K race kicks-off at 9:15 a.m.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Publix Georgia Half-Marathon Recap: Holy *#? Hills!

This is my fourth time running the Georgia Half-Marathon. Overall, it’s a great event and one of my favorite races to run. But for some reason, the hills felt more unforgiving this year. Yes, I’ve resorted to using comic-strip profanity to express my dismay (this is a G-rated blog).

If you run in Atlanta, it’s hard to avoid hills. But the last three miles of the course seemed particularly ruthless. My struggle with the hills resulted in a slightly longer finish time this year – 2:10 vs. 2:04 during my 2010 race. Despite a lackluster training schedule, my husband had a finish time of 1:47 which is a 3-minute improvement from last year’s race.

On the plus side, the weather was fantastic for a long-distance run -- cool temperatures and overcast skies. The hydration stations were well staffed. I’m always impressed with the number of volunteers who support these events. It takes a lot for someone to show up for a volunteer gig at 5 or 6 a.m. on a Sunday. On behalf of the more than 18,000 runners who participated in this year’s race, we thank you.

While the volunteers were in full force, the spectators were fewer than in years past. Last year’s highlight was a gospel choir in the Old Fourth Ward – they were dearly missed this year. The post-race food line was well-organized and plentiful, which is not surprising with Publix as the sponsor. Centennial Park was festive and the live band near the bag-check tent was a lot of fun.

It was great to see that several of top finishers in the race came from Metro Atlanta. Jynocel Basweti from Marietta repeated as the top finisher for the marathon with a time of 2:29:44. For the half-marathon, Atlanta’s Leo Kormanik took top honors with a finish time of 1:06:53. Check out photos and race coverage at AJC and the Publix Georgia Marathon site.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Publix Georgia Marathon/Half-Marathon: Are You Ready?

This is it … the final week before Atlanta’s big race during the spring season. Mother Nature delivered some amazing weather this weekend for those final training runs. Purchasing new insoles and energy chews were on the top of my “to do” list.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind before you head out to the race on Sunday morning:

Prepare for warm weather – A check at shows this weekend’s warm weather likely to stay with us through the race weekend. While temperatures could be near the low 50s at start time, if you’re running the full marathon it could heat up to the low 70s by late morning.

Grease up – Avoid chafing (and discomfort) by applying a layer of lubricant to your skin in those areas were clothing will rub. I’m a fan of Aquaphor, though Vaseline or Body Glide work just as well. Band-Aid’s Friction Block Stick is great for feet.

Stay fueled – Pasta is a favorite meal for runners the night before a big race. But staying fueled during the long run is what counts. Water stops will offer plenty of Gatorade, but don’t forget to bring energy chews or Gu to keep you going on the race course.

MARTA or drive? – MARTA has cut back on its service this year, with Sunday trains starting at 6:00 a.m. (check schedules at individual stations). If you plan to take the rail, race organizers suggest runners only use stations that offer a short trip (no more than 4 to 5 station stops). Planning to drive? There are 5 parking decks open in walking distance to Centennial Park.

Enjoy the race! I’ll provide a recap of my experience at the Publix Georgia Half-Marathon next Sunday.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Atlanta Spring Road Race Roundup

Trees are blooming and daffodils are sprouting … sure signs that spring is just around the corner. Ready to hit the pavement with fellow runners? Here’s a roundup of races to check out.

ShamRock ‘N Roll Road Race – March 13
Get into the spirit of St. Patty’s day with the Junior League’s annual race. Got a kilt? Wear it during the race for a chance to win a $250 Belk gift certificate. The event features both a 5K run and 10K that’s a qualifier for the Peachtree Road Race. Strollers and dogs are welcomed. As an added bonus, runners are eligible for a variety of discounts at Atlantic Station shops and cafes by showing their race bib.

Publix Georgia Marathon & Half-Marathon – March 20
It’s the big race of the spring running season. And there’s still time to sign-up – online registration closes March 16. This is one of my favorite races – terrific routes through Atlanta neighborhoods and convenient access to MARTA. With Publix as this year’s sponsor, there’s sure to be a great selection of post-race food. Not up for running the 13.1 or 26.2-mile distance? Grab a cup of coffee and join one of the neighborhood cheering stations.

Tour deCatur 5K & 1-Mile Run– March 26
This is truly an event designed for families. Last year’s race hosted more than 1,200 runners, with several hundred school-age kids among the participants. In fact, Decatur elementary schools host track clubs to help kids train for the 1-mile fun run. Proceeds benefit the Decatur Education Foundation, which supports educational programs and offers assistance to students in need.

Emory PA 5K Charitable Fun Run – April 2
For intown runners, this Druid Hills race is a convenient option. Physician Assistants’ students at Emory University host the annual race to help fund healthcare programs that serve the needy in Georgia. Proceeds from the event benefit Camp Sunshine, the South Georgia Farmworker Health Project, and the American Academy of Physician Assistants. As an added bonus, the first 250 race registrants get free breakfast and coffee from the Waffle House.

Run Before You Crawl 5K – April 9
Yes, you guessed it – this event mixes a road race with a pub crawl in East Atlanta Village. Fortunately, the race takes place before the drinking kicks off. With a 9 a.m. race and 10:30 a.m. start for the pub crawl, it does seem a bit early for the alcohol-infused festivities. But, as the event organizers claim on the site “…it will be 11:30 in Nova Scotia, and that’s nearly noon.” Register by March 13 and the combo race/pub crawl fee is $27; it increases to $32 afterwards. If you plan on drinking, consider a designated drive since the MARTA rail line is not conveniently located near East Atlanta Village.

Sweetwater 420 Fest 5K – April 16
What’s not to love about this race … an 11 a.m. start time, beautiful intown neighborhood, convenient MARTA station and free beer. The Sweetwater 420 Fest is a great local gathering with festival food and bands. You can spend the day (or the weekend) hanging out. The race bib tear-offs are redeemable for a free beer plus festival wristband. Proceeds benefit the Candler Park Neighborhood Organization.

Big Peach 5K Walk/Run – April 30
The folks at Big Peach offer a fun racing experience through the streets of Buckhead and Brookhaven. The race kicks off at the Brookhaven MARTA station and ends at Big Peach’s store location. Post-race, runners are treated to food, prizes and music in the parking lot of the Cherokee Plaza Shopping Center.

Girls on the Run 5K – April 30
I’m a big fan of this organization, which operates running programs for girls aged 8 to 13 to foster a healthy lifestyle and self-confidence. During the spring 5K race, GOTR participants “graduate” by running the race with their team mates, coaches and family. West Stride in Buckhead plays host to this year’s event. Proceeds from the race benefit the scholarship fund for Girls on the Run of Atlanta.

Lauren’s Run 5K & 2K Fun Run - May 1
Lauren Zagoria and Lauren Kochman were two little girls who shared a legacy – both succumbed to childhood cancer. In honor of their memory, runners will gather at the Concourse Office Park in Sandy Springs in support of pediatric cancer research. For an additional donation of $25, runners can pay tribute to a friend or loved one affected by cancer. Tribute signs will be placed along the 2K race course. Registration is available at the event site.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ouch! Shin Splints

In the middle of my training for the Publix Georgia Half-Marathon, the dreaded shin split struck. I’ve never encountered a shin split before so it threw me for a loop. A week of rest didn’t solve the problem like I hoped. After a bit of web research (thanks Google), I’ve discovered that there are quite a few factors that can trigger shin splits:

• Running on hard surfaces or uneven ground (yep, that’s me)
• Increasing exercise intensity or duration too quickly (that’s likely a culprit too)
• Excessive uphill or downhill running (hard to avoid in Atlanta)
• Worn out or ill-fitted shoes (hmm, that could be a factor too)
• Biometric issues, like flat feet, over-pronation, landing on the balls of your feet or pointing your toes outward (I’m sure one of those are a contributor)

I’ve decided to continue with my training and learn what I can about treating this type of injury. After the first couple miles, the discomfort subsides and the resulting pain isn’t debilitating. As a mom, I’ve certainly endured worst.

Here are some tips that I’ve found about recovery:
• Apply ice or a cold compression to reduce inflammation
• Use a heating pad and massage the leg muscles
• Wear shock-absorbing insoles
• Apply compression – you can do this by taping the leg or wearing a compression sock

With the big race scheduled for March 20, there are only a few weeks left to spend on long runs. Until then, I’ll just grin and bear it. If you’ve got any good tips, please share – I’m always looking for advice.

This week’s route is the 8.5-mile run from West Stride:

• From West Stride, run through the parking lot towards West Paces Ferry
• Turn left on West Paces Ferry (watch for traffic)
• Turn left on Northside Drive
• Turn right on Valley Road
• Go straight at Tuxedo Road
• Cross Habersham
• Turn right on West Paces Ferry (watch for traffic)
• Turn right at Chatham Road
• Turn left at Habersham
• Turn right at Knollwood Road
• Turn right Tuxedo Road
• Make a U-turn on Valley Road (reverse and stay on Tuxedo)
• Turn left on Tuxedo Road
• Turn right on West Paces Ferry (watch for traffic) and return to store

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sometimes, You Just Have to Run

2011 has brought an interesting mix of weather. From record snow and ice to spring-like temperatures – it can be hard to predict what Mother Nature has in store for Atlanta. Thus far this week, it’s been cool, rainy days. Not ideal running weather, but when you’re training for a race, sometimes that just doesn’t matter. I stay pretty busy at work and find it hard to fit in my runs during the week. For me, an outdoor run is the only real option – treadmills are like waterboarding – pure torture. Facing a business trip this week without any real prospects to run, I hit the road at 6 p.m. for a dark, rainy outing. And it was worth it. I quickly forgot about the weather and settled in to a quiet, easy run. A friend of mine on the trip woke up at 4:30 a.m. to get a run in before heading to the airport. Runners are a determined bunch. Regardless of the daily challenges we face, we always figure out a way to get out for a run.

Are you training for the Publix Georgia Half-Marathon? If so, here’s one of my favorite training routes. Enjoy.

Decatur to Little Five Points – 8 Miles
• Start at the Fellini’s on Commerce and Sycamore Place
• Head towards Howard Street, turn right on Howard
• On Howard, pass Decatur H.S. and the East Lake Marta Station
• Turn right on Ridgewood (after crossing the train tracks)
• Turn left on McClendon Drive
• Turn right on Moreland Ave.
• Turn right on Ponce de Leon Ave.
• Follow Ponce into Decatur
• Run through Downtown Decatur
• Turn right on Commerce Ave.
• End at Fellini’s

Sunday, January 23, 2011

West Stride Delivers the Goods for Marathon/Half-Marathon Training Runs

I’ve been looking for motivation to kick-off my training for the Publix Georgia Half-Marathon. I found it at West Stride yesterday morning. The store was packed with runners who showed up for 8:00 a.m. training runs for the upcoming marathon and half-marathon. West Stride’s owner, Genie Beaver, offered a variety of routes to choose from - 5.5 miles to 18 miles through the neighborhoods of Buckhead. Knowing the route was hilly, I opted for the 5.5 mile run with the 2-hour half-marathon pace group. It was a great way to start my race training.

Post-run, West Stride made sure we were well fed. Thanks to Publix, there was yogurt, fruit, water, bagels, donuts and sports cookies. Caribou Coffee provided the caffeine.

For those of us who stuck around, Genie hosted a workshop on tips to improve running form and performance with Kyle O’Day from Continuum Sports Solutions. Here’s a recap of the advice Kyle offered:

1.) Posture Matters: It’s the foundation of good running form. Maintain a posture that allows you to run tall; it helps to imagine that a string is gently pulling your head up.

2) Coordinate Arms and Legs: Pay attention to how you carry your arms – they act as a counter-balance. By coordinating the movement of your arms with your legs, you'll get a 3% boost in efficiency. Keep arms relaxed, move from the shoulder and keep swing moving from front to back. Brush your hands by the top of the hip or top of the pocket.

3) Don’t Aim for Long Strides: The more time your back foot spends in the air while in mid-stride, the less efficient your movement. After your foot comes off the ground, move it quickly to the front to improve your cadence. Don't keep knees high or the back foot dangling too long.

Here are the directions for the 5.5-mile route I ran:

· From West Stride, run through the parking lot towards West Paces Ferry
· Turn left on West Paces Ferry (watch for traffic)
· Turn left on Northside Drive
· Turn right on Valley Road
· Turn right on Tuxedo Road
· Turn left on Tuxedo Road (it splits just prior to Northside Dr)
· Turn right on West Paces Ferry and run back to West Stride

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Did You Run Outside During Atlanta’s “Snowcation?”

Over the past few days on Twitter, I saw lots of tweets from friends talking about the snow storm that hit Atlanta on Sunday night. Hashtags for “Snowcation,” ATLsnow,” and “Hothlanta” have popped up on Twitter and there’s even a Foursquare badge for the storm.

Paved surfaces have iced over and people are urged to stay home. But is this actually a good time to get a run in outside? Perhaps -- if you’ve got the right gear.

My husband went on a run yesterday and he only encountered one problem area – Atlanta’s infamous steel-plate covers used for potholes. Otherwise, he had a good run. Me? I’m the type to slip on the front stoop, so I stayed inside.

If you’ve had a case of cabin fever and ventured outside for a run, let me know. I’m looking for stories (and tips) for cold-weather running in the frozen tundra of the south. Otherwise know as “Hothlanta.”

Until then, stay safe on your runs.