By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(02-Jul) — This weekend, over 55,000 runners will continue their annual tradition of racing the AJC Peachtree Road Race on July 4 in Atlanta, one of the most patriotic ways to celebrate Independence Day in America. On Saturday, the 46th annual 10-K will feature some of the world’s best squaring off in the first-ever Peachtree Cup, a unique co-ed team battle, in addition to fighting individually for first place honors. Ahead of the race, Race Results Weekly breaks down five storylines to watch out for on the roads of the Georgia state capital.
1) Shalane Flanagan: Last week, Flanagan completed an impressive double at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., taking second in the 10,000m on Thursday in 31:42.29, then returning to Hayward Field’s oval on Sunday to finish fifth in the 5000m (15:10.02). Racing twice in four days, Flanagan told Race Results Weekly that her legs were fresh during the second race, except she did not have the extra pop needed to keep up with the front group when they turned to another gear with 400 meters to go.
It’ll be interesting to see how Flanagan feels with nearly a week’s recovery. She is gearing up for the IAAF World Championships 10,000m in August, which is her main goal for the summer. She comes in as the favorite, hoping to become the third American women’s champion since 1995.
Racing on Independence Day in the United States will be extra special, Flanagan noted last month.
“Putting on a Team USA uniform always brings out the best in me, and that will count double on the Fourth of July,” said Flanagan. “It’s a day of national pride for America, and our team will definitely want to provide some early fireworks.”
2) Inaugural AJC Peachtree Cup: For the first time, the AJC Peachtree Road Race will play host to a continent-based competition, with teams representing the USA, Africa, Europe, and Asia. Each team will be made up of six athletes, three women and three men. At the end of the race the team members’ times will be added together, and the team with the fastest cumulative time will be named champion.
This is an interesting “race within a race” competition that should make the action on the roads even more intense. The first place team also gets $42,000, a nice payday for winning the team title. The second place team earns $21,000, with third and fourth place taking home $12,000 and $6,000, respectively.
Will this new format increase strategy and team tactics? Only time will tell. Cardiac Hill, located during mile three, could really shake things up and make the team format that much more intense. The giant incline at halfway could be the difference maker.
3) Battle Royale Part II – Last year, Christo Landry and Tyler Pennel battled valiantly in the final mile of the AJC Peachtree Road Race (then serving as the USA Championships for 10-K) each throwing in a surge trying to drop the other in a sprint towards Piedmont Park. Landry came out on top in 28:25, with Pennel second in 28:30.
This year, we could see the pair again fight for a spot on the podium.
Pennel has had a consistent year, running well at distances from the mile (he clocked his first sub-four minute mile in 3:58.99 on June 4) to the 10,000m (he ran a PB of 28:22.90 in May and took 11th in the discipline at the national championships last week). Throw Bobby Curtis into the mix and you have a nice trio of American men to watch out for.
Along with Flanagan, Olympian Janet Bawcom and Virginia’s Rachel Ward round out the American women’s squad.
4) East African Dominance: Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the strong squad representing Africa. Leading the charge is team captain Gebre Gebremariam, the 2009 IAAF World Cross Country Champion and 2010 TCS New York City Marathon winner from Ethiopia who claimed victory at the 2010 AJC Peachtree Road Race.
Joining him on the line will be Daniel Salel, the rising star from Kenya who claimed the very wet B.A.A. 10-K title on June 21. Salel has consistently been finishing on the podium at American road races over the last two years, including a third place 13:27 PB at the 2015 B.A.A. 5-K, and a runner-up showing at the 2014 Cherry Blossom 10 Mile in Washington, D.C. The AJC Peachtree Road Race is his final race before heading back to Kenya for the National Championships on the track. Not to be forgotten is South Africa’s Lusapho April, a 2012 Olympian who took third at the 2013 TCS New York City Marathon.
For the women, Lineth Chepkurui, a three time winner of the AJC Peachtree Road Race (2009, 2010, 2013), returns hoping to once again finish first in Piedmont Park. She has experience on her side, and her 2010 winning time of 30:51 ranks as the second-fastest in race history. From Ethiopia is the young, up and coming 21-year-old Buze Diriba, fifth at the IAAF World Championships last year. She timed 31:33.27 on the track this year at the Stanford Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational.
Among the notable names for Team Europe are Great Britain’s Alyson Dixon and France’s Christelle Daunay, the reigning European marathon champion. Team Asia is led by Yusuke Mita (part of the 2011 Hakone Ekiden course record team) and Yuika Mori, this year’s winner of the 10-K Corporate Championships.
5) Fast Facts: This year’s AJC Peachtree Road Race will award a total prize purse of $98,500. Of that, $81,000 is reserved for the team competition, with $42,000 going to the winning team (split among the six athletes). The overall individual men’s and women’s champion will take home a winner’s check of $2,000.
The AJC Peachtree Road Race is the largest fully-timed road race in the United States. About 60,000 runners are entered; last year, there were 57,660 finishers.