It’s the morning of the 2018 Anthem Peachtree Junior and Ray, wearing bib number 258, is preparing for his big race. First, he warms up in the Clif Wrapper Grab booth, then moves on to a miniature slackline. Next up is a lesson in how to toss a foam javelin before heading off to tackle – in his own unique way – the hurdles.

Ready for the main event, Ray lines up for the 50-meter dash and takes off, employing an arm motion more reminiscent of Michael Phelps than Usain Bolt. After crossing the finish line, he cools down on a playground slide and then stops to feed a duck whose face feathers match his new bright red race T-shirt.

“When I see Ray maneuver over, under and around the hurdles, I can’t help but smile,” said Rich Kenah, executive director of Atlanta Track Club, referring to the family YouTube video in which Ray stars. “I see a kid who will no doubt find ways to maneuver around any barrier that life throws in his way. It’s a great example of how I see Peachtree Junior as more than a kids’ race. It’s an introduction to the sport, but it’s also about kids and their parents learning that there are many creative ways to have fun through aerobic fitness. It’s one of my favorite events – the emotions the kids feel are so pure, so innocent.”

What quickly evolved into a celebration began three decades ago out of concern.

How It All Started

In 1985, Julia Emmons directed her first AJC Peachtree Road Race after taking the helm as executive director of Atlanta Track Club. Afterward, she received a letter from a woman who asked if she realized that many of the children running were in tears by the time they reached Mile 5.

She hadn’t. The next year, she ran the race to investigate, and what she saw matched the letter. Small children were struggling in a sea of giant adults, who in turn had to dodge the little ones.

“Peachtree is to be a joyous event; it wasn’t for most of these kids,” wrote Emmons in the April 1987 issue of the Club’s Wingfoot magazine, in which she announced that the inaugural Peachtree Junior.”

This Year’s Changes

Thus, 32 years ago, the kids got their own Peachtree, separate from the adults, where they would be center stage. At the 2019 Anthem Peachtree Junior – for which registration is now under way, the joyous occasion continues as the children will move a step closer toward being part of the “grownup” Peachtree again. The race will now take place on July 3 and end at the same finish line as the next day’s AJC Peachtree Road Race.

“As we celebrate all things Peachtree in its 50th year, it seems only appropriate to give these kids the same finish line and T-shirt experience that the adults will enjoy the next day,” said Kenah.

The event will also be streamlined to a Mile (ages 6-14) and a Dash (ages 6 and under), in keeping with other Atlanta Track Club youth events. About 3,000 children are expected to participate.

After the race, Atlanta Track Club will hold a post-race celebration befitting of the world’s largest 10K, with finisher’s T-shirts, medals, snacks, activities and more.

To register for the race, head to Atlanta Track Club.

This article is brought to you by Atlanta Track Club

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