It seems like yesterday that we were preparing for our very first 10K on the Atlanta BeltLine.  The 10K was held on December 3, 2011, the same day as the SEC Championship.  When I was planning that race I thought about many things, such as what other races are occurring as we didn’t want to compete with an existing holiday-themed run that has been around for a while.  We also wanted to make this a very special event and thought long and hard about it and came up with the idea of a tailgate challenge.

While Atlanta hosts many sporting events, such as the SEC Championship, what better way to celebrate the day.  So we decided to put the race on the same day as the SEC Championship but we thought let’s not limit this challenge to just SEC Fans but everybody. I went to Auburn and of course everything is about the SEC from my perspective, but this wasn’t about me so we turned this into a tailgate theme with the goal of getting a lot of Atlanta-based alumni associations to come out, wear their school colors, cheer on the runners and set up a tailgate tent along the race route.  We thought it would be a fun way to invite the visitors coming in to watch the game to start their day off with a little exercise and fun before getting ready for the big game! How fun would it be to run a 6-mile race with every mile having some sort of collegiate theme.

We had prizes for the winning alumni teams and it was based upon school spirit, how many folks showed up and what kind of tailgate they set up. The prizes were happy hour events at local restaurants.  What restaurant wouldn’t do this with a chance to host a large group and possible future opportunities?

In our first year of hosting this 10K and the challenge, we had close to 1000 runners, and a dozen universities came out and setup tailgate tents at the finish line. The weather helped with spring-like 60 degrees on a December morning.  That is the great thing about Atlanta as you never know what you might get in the wintertime. Most of the time it’s likely to be some great running weather.  We also had a great host that day. Park Tavern is a great restaurant/event facility alongside Piedmont Park.  Our inaugural year of the Atlanta BeltLine concluded at that event and it was a great year.  Of course we wanted to build upon that event and make it larger so as the December 10K approached in 2012, we kept the tailgate challenge in place but we decided lets also create a neighborhood challenge.  Who doesn’t like a little competition especially when its bragging rights and cash.

This time, we changed the location of our start and finish as the Eastside trail was complete, which was great and helped us lower our costs as it related to security.  The event last year went through many neighborhoods and was a challenging route to design, but 2012 was going to be a lot easier. We also decided to turn it into a Peachtree qualifier, which brought out more folks.  We grew last year’s event by about 500 participants so we went from roughly 970 registered runners to close to 1600 runners. The tailgate challenge was just as awesome with more alumni associations. The neighborhood challenge was a big success but one neighborhood swept the $1000 cash purse.  We set up a challenge to determine the largest, fastest and most spirited team.  The neighborhood that won took the prize earnings and used it to improve the community!

Of course I had a little hiccup leading up to the race. I ended up in the hospital the weekend before and as a result of that experience came away with two hernias. It wasn’t something well timed with the 10K being a week later and I am still recovering from that today.

So that brings us to our third 10K which has turned into a very special 10K, centered around the holiday season and with the fun challenges between the neighborhoods and alumni associations.  We can only hope the weather will be spring-like in the 60s.  We think the crowd will be even larger as of this blog we have close to 1000 runners and we are two weeks out from race day.

If you haven’t had a chance to run in a BeltLine race or this 10K, I think you will enjoy the experience and the post-race atmosphere. We have some great partners such as the Atlanta Ballet, who will honor us with a theatrical performance. I hope to see you at the December 7th 10K or sometime at a future BeltLine event in 2014.

Stay active and have fun!