Peachtree Celebrating its 50th with $50,000 CR Bonuses for Runners & Wheelchairs

By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2019 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

2016 Peachtree Road Race

(19-Feb) — The Atlanta Track Club plans to celebrate the 50th edition of their AJC Peachtree Road Race 10-K on July 4 with an especially big bang. The event’s four champions –male and female runners, and male and female wheelchair racers– could each win a $50,000 bonus should they break the event record for their category.

“The AJC Peachtree Road Race has historically been a trailblazer in the world of elite road racing,” observed race director and Atlanta Track Club executive director Rich Kenah through a statement. “From the addition of drug testing to official prize money, the event has led the way. At its 50th running, we’re excited to break new ground by awarding this unprecedented bonus for the wheelchair division and by offering the world’s greatest runners a lucrative incentive to run times never seen before in this country. I am hopeful we will see some fireworks here on the morning of the fourth.”

Those records will be hard to beat, especially given the potentially sweltering conditions in Atlanta in July. On the men’s side, the late Kenyan Joseph Kimani’s 1996 winning time of 27:04 has been one of America’s sturdiest course records. The closest any athlete has come is 27:22 by another Kenyan, Sammy Kitwara, who won the race in 2009. Kimani’s time is the fastest ever run on American soil for a certified 10-K, although not eligible for the official USATF all-comers record because the course is slightly downhill (Kenya’s Rhonex Kipruto has the all-comers mark, 27:08, run at last April’s UAE Healthy Kidney 10-K in New York City).

The best mark in the men’s wheelchair division is 18:38 set by Saul Mendoza of Mexico in 2004. However, American star Daniel Romanchuk, last November’s TCS New York City Marathon champion, came very close to that mark in 2018, missing it by only two seconds. Should Romanchuk, or another athlete, break Mendoza’s record this year the $50,000 bonus plus any prize money would be the largest first place payout for any wheelchair road race held in United States history.

“At first I wondered if there was a missing decimal point,” said the 20-year-old Romanchuk when asked about the bonus.

On the women’s side, Lornah Kiplagat’s 30:32 from 2002 is the time to beat. Kiplagat, who now designs and promotes a line of running apparel under the Lornah Sports brand, won the Peachtree five times: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2006. She represented Kenya when she won the first three times, then the Netherlands for the final two. After Kiplagat set the record only one other woman, Kenya’s Lineth Chepkurui, has broken 31 minutes at the event. Chepkurui won in 2010 in 30:51.

Edith Hunkeler of Switzerland holds the women’s wheelchair division record of 22:09, a mark she achieved in 2009 when she won the race for the fourth time. Seven-time Peachtree wheelchair women’s division champion Tatyana McFadden loves the bonus idea.

“I am beyond excited that Peachtree took the commitment of promoting equality,” said McFadden through a statement. “This is a huge step, and it really says something. Thank you, Peachtree, for being an example for others to follow.”

The wheelchair divisions of the race are sponsored by the Shepherd Center, a private, not-for profit hospital in Atlanta which specializes in spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation.

Kenah and his predecessor Tracey Russell have not been afraid to tinker with Peachtree’s elite athlete program to create new excitement for what is the world’s largest 10-K (last year’s edition had 54,672 finishers). In some years, the race has been the USA 10-K Championships for men alone, and in others it was the championships for both men and women. In some of those championship editions, overseas athletes were permitted to compete, but in other editions they weren’t. Sometimes the elite women ran in a separate section, while in other years the race used a mixed-gender format. The race even tried a co-ed team competition in 2015 called the Peachtree Cup where continental teams competed based on the total time of three men and three women.

“It’s a great idea,” said Lornah Kiplagat about the bonus. “It’s also an honor. Such a huge bonus clearly shows that this is a special record and it will be extremely tough to break it. But I hope someone does, because records are there to be broken.”

PHOTO: The start of the 2016 AJC Peachtree Road Race (photo courtesy of the Atlanta Track Club)

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