40 years running the Peachtree Road Race and what it means to me


Depending on when you read this, there’s a good chance that I’m either preparing to run, currently running, or have just completed my 40th Peachtree Road Race (aka “The Peachtree” or simply “Peachtree”). Except for a few years when I was on active duty with the Army, I have run every Peachtree since 1981. This iconic race has been a constant presence in my life, marking the passing of years. In this blog post, I would like to take a moment to reflect on my four decades of participation in the Peachtree Road Race and share what this event truly means to me.

I think most everyone knows about the Peachtree Road Race, but in case you don’t know, the Peachtree is a 10K (6.2-mile) road race down historic Peachtree Street in the heart of Atlanta. First run in 1970, the race has been expertly managed by the Atlanta Track Club ever since. Local coach Bill Thorn has run all 53 Peachtree races since that first one in 1970. He recently announced his retirement at age 92 and won’t be running this year. The Peachtree course has changed a little over the years, but the most used and current route starts at Lenox Square in the Buckhead area of Atlanta and runs south along Peachtree Street to 10th Street in Midtown before heading into Piedmont Park. It’s an iconic race known the world over. Before COVID, it was known as the world’s largest 10K race, drawing over 65,000 participants (that’s about half the population of our county!). During COVID, they had a “virtual edition” of the race to keep it going.

Mary Catherine, Alex, and Joe Domaleski wearing their Peachtree finisher shirts from 2019. Photo/Joe Domaleski
Mary Catherine, Alex, and Joe Domaleski wearing their Peachtree finisher shirts from 2019. Photo/Joe Domaleski

The Peachtree has become part of my life. I first started running it when I was a teenager, back when I could show up and run fast without training. Over the years, I’ve run fast, slow, and mostly “slightly faster” than the average runner. When Mary Catherine and I got married nearly 30 years ago, I let her know that this race was going to be part of our life, and she has honored that and joined in on the fun as well. Our children ran with us over the years, making this a family event. Our oldest daughter, Alex, continues to run the race with us each year.

Looking back on 40 years of running the Peachtree Road Race, I am reminded of the profound personal growth, sweat, soreness, and pride that have accompanied each stride. From my early years as a novice runner to my current “seasoned” status, this race has been a continuous source of self-discovery and self-improvement. It has taught me discipline, resilience, and the power of setting and achieving goals. Each year, I have challenged myself to become a better version of myself, both physically and mentally. That doesn’t always mean running faster, although at one time I was a fast runner.

The author as a much younger, faster runner back in 2002. Photo/Marathon Photo
The author as a much younger, faster runner back in 2002. Photo/Marathon Photo

My fastest Peachtree was 20 years ago, back in 2002. I ran a 38:04, having run a qualifier of 36:25 to get in the “top-seeded” category. With so many runners, the race is divided into waves based on expected finish time and places the fastest runners at the front of the race. The top waves require documented performance to “qualify” for a top spot. For the longest time, my personal goal was to run a sub-40 minute time, and I normally ran in the “sub-seeded” time group ahead of the lettered waves. As I got older, running a sub-42 minute became my new goal as it usually meant I would be in the top 1,000 and start in Wave A. The top 1,000 finishers, regardless of age or gender, were awarded special Top Finisher mugs. I have a collection of them.

Fast forward to 2023, and age has finally caught up with me. My goal this year is just to finish and have fun. We will be in Wave H this year, and I may do a bit of walking. Do you or anyone you know have osteoarthritis? Yep, I have it in my knees, but I’m determined to keep moving forward anyway. It’s important to keep my running streak going and, of course, add another coveted Peachtree finishers shirt to my growing collection. So, what has the race meant to me personally?

Mary Catherine and Joe Domaleski at the starting line of the 2022 Peachtree Road Race. Photo/Joe Domaleski
Mary Catherine and Joe Domaleski at the starting line of the 2022 Peachtree Road Race. Photo/Joe Domaleski

A Bond with the Running Community: The Peachtree has brought me into the running community. Over the years, I have forged deep connections with fellow participants, sharing the joy of accomplishment, the camaraderie of training, and the collective celebration of this remarkable event. The sense of unity and camaraderie that permeates the race day is unlike anything I have experienced elsewhere. The shared passion for running has created lasting friendships and a network of support that extends beyond the race itself. You’ll be proud to know that our local community is well represented at the race. Our own Peachtree City Running Club charters two buses to transport runners to the race.

Nostalgia and Milestone Moments: Each Peachtree holds a special place in my heart as a milestone in my running journey. The memories of crossing the start line, hearing the cheers of the crowd, and pushing through the physical and mental challenges have become ingrained in my being. I recall moments of triumph, moments of struggle, and moments of pure joy. These memories serve as a reminder of my own resilience and determination, and they motivate me to keep going, year after year. It’s really hard to describe; you just have to experience it.

Embracing Atlanta’s Spirit – The Peachtree is more than just a race; it is a celebration of Atlanta’s vibrant spirit and rich culture. As I traverse the course, passing iconic landmarks and immersing myself in the cheers of spectators, I feel a profound connection to the city I call home. At the top of “Cardiac Hill,” the race passes by Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, where all of my children were born. Peachtree Street is the heart of Atlanta. The race embodies the city’s resilience, diversity, and unwavering sense of community. It is a reminder of the indomitable spirit that defines Atlanta and inspires me to carry that spirit with me in every aspect of my life. People all across the Atlanta area will be wearing their hard-earned Peachtree finisher shirts after the race. Just seeing another Peachtree finisher creates an instant bond.

Gratitude for the Journey – Above all, I am filled with a deep sense of gratitude. Although I’m not as fast as I once was, I am grateful for my health and the ability to participate in this event year after year. I am grateful for the support of my loved ones, who have cheered me on through every step of this journey. I am grateful for the lessons learned, the friendships made, and the memories created. The Peachtree Road Race has enriched my life in countless ways, and I am honored to have been a part of its legacy.

Members of the Peachtree City Running Club at the finish area of the 2022 Peachtree Road Race. Photo/Peachtree City Running Club
Members of the Peachtree City Running Club at the finish area of the 2022 Peachtree Road Race in Piedmont Park. Photo/Peachtree City Running Club

As I reflect on my 40th Peachtree Road Race, I carry with me a lifetime of memories, lessons, and cherished experiences. This event has shaped me as a runner, as a member of a supportive community, and as an individual. It represents personal growth, camaraderie, and a deep connection to the vibrant city of Atlanta. The Peachtree Road Race is not just a race—it is a part of who I am. And as I cross the finish line once again, I am reminded of the endless possibilities that lie ahead in my ongoing running journey. Are you running the Peachtree this year? If so, meet us at the Peachtree City Running Club tent in the Piedmont Park finish area and say hello. If not, consider running (or walking) it next year.

Happy Birthday, America! We live in the greatest country in the world.

[Joe Domaleski, a Fayette County resident for 25 years, is the owner of Country Fried Creative – an award-winning digital marketing agency located in Peachtree City. His company was the Fayette Chamber’s 2021 Small Business of the Year.  Joe is a husband, father of three grown children, and proud Army veteran.  He has an MBA from Georgia State University and enjoys sharing his perspectives drawing from thirty years of business leadership experience. ]