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Training for Cardiac Hill on the AJC Peachtree Road Race 10K

Posted by George Parker on
AJC Peachtree Road Race 10K Cardiac Hill

Hills. Heat. Humidity.

If you live in Atlanta, you know what I am talking about. If you are visiting on July 4th for the Peachtree Road Race, welcome to Atlanta! You will know what I am talking about shortly.

The Peachtree Road Race course is challenging because it starts by feeding your confidence, subtly draining your energy before presenting its actual tests in the race's final miles.

Now, always be careful from whom you take advice! I live in Atlanta and have run the Peachtree Road Race several times. I have trained hard and am proud to have finished in the Top 1,000 twice to receive the coveted Peachtree Road Race Finisher mug. My PR at Peachtree is 39:20 and 309th place (out 24,295). No elite runner here, but I have gained some valuable experience that I will pass along.

The course starts fast. The first mile is slightly inclined but feels flat as your weave your way down Peachtree Road, heading south from Buckhead to Midtown Atlanta's Piedmont Park. The biggest challenge here is the crowd of runners. After the first mile, it is downhill for the next two miles. The road is steep and fast. You'll be flying down Peachtree as you veer left, get refreshed by "Holy Water," and soak in the thunderous applause.

Peachtree Road Race 10K Atlanta Track Club

 Then you hit the Mile 3 marker. It's time for Peachtree Road to claw back.

Everyone talks about "Cardiac" Hill at the Peachtree Road Race, the same way you might hear talk about the infamous Newton Hills of the Boston Marathon. Atlanta's Piedmont Hospital resides at the summit of Cardiac Hill, ascribing to the hill its cardio-inspired name. Before you meet Cardiac Hill, you first encounter "Fake Cardiac" Hill. It's a 0.5 mile, 3% incline stretch that begins right after mile marker 3. The first 200 meters is a 5% rise, which intensifies the "Fake Cardiac" hill after your legs have been used to downhill running for the past two miles. Once you crest "Fake Cardiac" hill, you have less than a 100-meter rest before facing the true Cardiac Hill – a 6% incline for over 400 meters. This is a challenging hill, especially coming off of the "Fake Cardiac" hill moment before. The more you prepare for this double hill and the steep incline, the less shocked your body will be on race day.

After the Cardiac Hills, you can recover for almost a mile before entering what I believe to be the most challenging section of the race – the Midtown Hills. You are entering the "numbered" streets of Peachtree, slowly descending until you make a left on 10th street. Before then, you have two challenging hills to overcome. Midtown Hill #1 is almost as steep and as long as Cardiac Hill but gets far less attention. Once you summit, you are met by another challenging hill that takes you to the highest point on the race course at Mile marker 5.5. Your legs and lungs are fried by this point, but if you can muster the heart, there are valuable seconds you can claw back.

The final mile of the Peachtree Road Race course is net downhill, including a steep decline for the last 200 meters to the finish line. Use this knowledge to help carry you over the Midtown Hills. Make the left turn on 10th street towards the finish line of Piedmont Park, and know that the terrain is net downhill in your favor. Some ups, but far more downs will confront you in the final mile.

Now that you know what you are facing, here's a sample workout to specifically train for Peachtree.

Peachtree Road Race 10K Hills - Workout Plan:
I am a proponent of treadmill training to simulate race conditions. The hills of the Peachtree Road Race are unique enough that it is difficult to find a close substitute in your running. But the treadmill can simulate Atlanta perfectly.

  • Warm up as you would before a race, including strides
  • Mile 1 at 1% incline
  • Mile 2 and 3 at 0% incline (or negative incline if your treadmill will do that)
  • Mile 3 simulate "Fake Cardiac" and "Cardiac Hill" using the above course map. Run the indicated incline for the duration of the hill. Run the recovery section at a 0.5% incline before hitting the next hill.
  • Mile 4 through 5.5 run the recovery off Cardiac Hill to Midtown #1 and Midtown #2
  • Sprint to the Finish! The last almost mile at Peachtree is net downhill. During this section, you can make up a lot of lost time from hills if you train to run harder than your goal pace.

Best wishes on chasing your Peachtree 10K running goals!

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