This Independence Day weekend, runners took to Peachtree Street to celebrate an annual tradition … no, not that one; the other one.
On Sunday evening, as preparations were underway for the July 4 Peachtree Road Race, which would attract almost 60,000 runners, a much smaller group of athletes gathered at the race’s starting line.
These 60 participants were there for the third annual Peachtree Road Rage, an unsanctioned street race organized by Kyle Torok.
“It’s not sanctioned by any governing body or authority,” he said. “No one gave us permission … no one told us no. Why keep it that way? Why not? Why does everything in Atlanta have to be through permits and allowances? Why do we have to check in with Mom and Dad?”
The race followed a route identical to its larger counterpart, that is south on Peachtree Street then east on 10th Street, ending at the Charles Allen Gate in Piedmont Park.
When asked about safety concerns about running a race through open streets, Torok pointed out that all those who registered were experienced runners.
“People run in this city all the time,” he explained. “We have a rich running tradition. It’s no more dangerous than getting on a plane.”
Returning Road Rage runner John Davenport cited the appeal of the small group.
“I hate being surrounded by 60,000 people,” he said. “I’d rather it be a small collective group of fun people that I know, that’s always a good time.”
As rain poured on Buckhead minutes before the race was to begin, Torok gave the runners some last-minute “encouragement.”
“There is no glory in this!” he yelled at the crowd, “There are no bragging rights! The male and female winners each get a peach pie, that’s about as glorious as it gets.”
With that, he blew a whistle and the dampened runners were off down Peachtree.
Participant Eli Dickerson was first to cross the finish line, completing the 10k in just over 39 minutes. He call the Road Rage “the funnest race in Atlanta.”
“I love this race because they don’t take themselves too seriously,” he said, “and none of the runners do either. And it’s fun! Sixty of your closest friends out crushing it the night before the big event, hanging out in the park. What’s not to love?”
It’s hard to argue with that kind of enthusiasm from a man who just ran 6.2 miles just to do it. Catching up with Torok, he said that all of it — the small number of runners, the bucking of rules, the devil-may-care attitude — speaks to a desire to do something unique and rough around the edges.
“[The runners] want a piece of the city, and they want to contribute to something that makes it great,” he explained. “So that you can run through the streets that are yours as a citizen, so that you can have a beverage and a couple of peaches.”
And for the runners of the Peachtree Road Rage, that’s reward enough.