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Georgia To Hold Virtual Peachtree 10K Race

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

For 50 years on the Fourth of July, runners have braved Georgia's heat and humidity for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Peachtree Road Race, but not this year. Organizers from the Atlanta Track Club first postponed the race to Thanksgiving, hoping to outlast a spike in COVID cases. Now they've decided the 10K race won't be a massive gathering. Instead, it's going to be a virtual one. How does a virtual race work? Well, joining us to explain is Rich Kenah. He is the executive director of the Atlanta Track Club.

Welcome.

RICH KENAH: Thanks for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. So before we get to the details of how this works virtually, explain just how big an event this usually is. How many runners take part?

KENAH: This would have been the 51st running of the AJC Peachtree Road Race, and we capped the race at 60,000 participants.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Oh - a lot of people.

KENAH: Yes. It - as we like to say here in Atlanta, it's how we celebrate the Fourth of July.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) All right. What does a virtual Peachtree Road Race now look like?

KENAH: It is our attempt to deliver something as authentic as possible to the Peachtree faithful, so that means that we are delivering to you what we call that coveted finisher shirt. But we invest in an app that all registrants can download and use to experience the sights and sounds of the event, as well as use GPS technology to track your progress as you complete your 10k.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But they're not actually winding their way through Atlanta on the traditional course. So how is the app sort of recreating that experience, then?

KENAH: So we will look to bring the announcer's voice. We will use music. We will use different points on the course and insert audio elements and video elements so that as you are participating, it will bring you back to what it feels like on the Fourth of July. And one of those expectations that the Peachtree faithful have is to see and hear Dean Candler outside the Cathedral of St. Philip as he gives them a blessing with holy water as they move by. So those who participate in the virtual version this year can certainly expect to hear, at that point in the race, their blessing from the dean.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Oh, sounds fun. Do you know how many people are going to participate?

KENAH: So we currently have just about 36,000 people registered. We had around 34,000 who had stuck with an in-person event planned for Thanksgiving Day. We had originally tried to move it to Thanksgiving. And now we've moved them to virtual. And we are opening up registration on August 31, and we'll see whether we get to that - you know, that usual 60,000-person cap. But the interesting thing for the Peachtree is it has largely been a local phenomenon. It is 90% from the state of Georgia. By going virtual, we have an opportunity to tell the Peachtree story to everyone around the globe.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: As someone, you know, who is part of the running culture of Atlanta, this seems to be a sort of happy medium in this very difficult time. But it must feel bittersweet not to be able to run the Peachtree this year.

KENAH: We made this announcement with mixed emotion. And the responses have really ranged from, thank you for finding a way for us to continue our Peachtree tradition, to, how dare you try to pass off this virtual version as the thing that we know and love?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sounds like the story of our times.

(LAUGHTER)

KENAH: It is exactly that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Rich Kenah of the Atlanta Track Club.

Thank you very much.

KENAH: Thanks again.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.