Coach Mike Mead

Planning for the Peachtree - May 2004

Well, May is already here and the Peachtree Road Race is now two months (or less) away. Have you begun your training? Do you have a race plan?

If you answered “NO” to both questions, than you may be too late to have a great Peachtree race experience this year. Unlike those cram sessions you use to put yourself through the night before big tests during high school and/or college, cramming for Peachtree is not a viable option. Such efforts will only lead to disappointment and possible injury.

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” -- John Wooden.

For those just trying to survive the Peachtree this year, there is hope if you follow these training guidelines:

Start Training Today

Just like a builder, you need to build a strong foundation. The main ingredient in your training is going to be your distance runs. Remember, the Peachtree is a 10K distance (6.2 miles) and if your long run is three miles you need to start increasing your long run to at least seven miles within three weeks before the July 4th race. You also need to be consistent in your training. If you are a “weekend warrior” or a “fair weather runner” who only gets in two or three runs a week, your “foundation” will crumble by the time you reach the top of Peachtree’s “Heartbreak Hill” on race day.

Head for the Hills

Speaking of Peachtree’s infamous “Heartbreak Hill,” you need to do some hill running to prepare you to handle the course. Peachtree has a couple of hills and you should train on some hills accordingly. The toughest hill comes near the halfway point of the race and is over a half mile long. Find a hill of comparable length and do 6-8 repeats on it. That is, run up the hill and walk back down for rest, repeat. You may need to start out doing 2-4, but work up to it. Do this workout once a week for the next six weeks and you’ll tame that hill on the Fourth of July. You also need to do one or two runs (5-8 miles) on a rolling or hilly course to compliment your training for Peachtree. If you live in an area that is flat, you may need to do a treadmill run set on a four- or five-degree angle to gain the benefit.


As the weather gradually warms and the humidity builds, you’ll want to acclimate your body for the race. Many folks run in the heat of the day for a few weeks before Peachtree to get their body adjusted to the weather. However, the humidity is usually at it’s lowest during these times. Since the race will start at 7:30 a.m., you will want to try and train around the time you anticipate you’ll begin the race. Since work schedules limit most of us from training at these times, it is best to run before work and use the weekends to get in runs nearer your start time. This way, you are running in more humid conditions and your body is getting use to functioning in the morning.

Pace Yourself

If you have a particular time (be realistic) you’re trying to run at Peachtree, it is important to do some pace training. Figure out your per-mile pace and do some mile repeats on the track. For example, say you’re trying to break 50:00 for 10K (8:03 per mile), Go to a track and do 3 to 4 mile repeats (four laps) in 8:00 with eight minutes rest. Do this workout once a week and try working up to doing the mile five times at this pace/rest interval. Once you get to five, cut the rest to six minutes the next time you do the workout. Try getting down to taking three minutes rest. When you get within two weeks of the race, do eight, half-mile (2 laps) repeats in 4:00 with two-minute rest. This workout, accompanied by your hill training and long runs should prepare you to run a decent Peachtree.

What’s your plan?

Days before the big race be sure you have a racing plan. Most inexperienced runners do not go into a race with a specific plan or goal and usually go out too fast and suffer the painful consequences. Taking our previous example of running sub-50, try keeping that first mile within 10 seconds of your goal pace (8:00). So don’t go faster than 7:50 the first mile and you’ll be on pace. You should find that you have more energy later in the race when you need it and you can actually run faster as you go. However, with that said, Peachtree is notorious for being crowded at the start and most folks not on the front starting line have difficulties negotiating around the slow-pokes and novice runners. So factor this into your racing plans that your first mile will be slow. Also factor in “Heartbreak Hill” near the midway point. Be sure to study the course elevation chart (available at and pay attention to the last half of the race.

If you properly prepare and plan for this year’s Peachtree Road Race, you should have an enjoyable experience. But be sure you start today!