The AJC Peachtree is the largest 10k race in the world. It is a race where if one breaks sixty minutes for the 10,000m distance, then, you get a very cool and unique t-shirt. Rich Kenah, the Executive Director of the Atlanta Track Club and AJC Peachtree Road Race is building a stronger ATC and stronger race.
AJC Peachtree Road Race Press Conference: Athletes Say They Thrive in Team Format
Last year, the AJC Peachtree Road Race played host to both the men’s and women’s USA 10K Championships, with the best U.S. runners battling for the title in a fitting tribute to the Fourth of July. This year, the race has invited the rest of the world to take on a united Team USA.
“We wanted to celebrate Independence Day in a way that was appropriate,” said Rich Kenah, executive director of Atlanta Track Club, in a press conference on Thursday morning to kick off the 46th running of the event. “We also wanted to challenge America; we wanted to bring in the best of the best from around the world.”
On Saturday beginning at 7:20 a.m., Team USA, Team Africa, Team Europe, and Team Japan will square off in the first-ever Peachtree Cup competition at the AJC Peachtree Road Race. The individual times of the six athletes on each team, three men and three women, will be added together, and the fastest cumulative time will determine the winner.
With a first-place team prize of $42,000 on the line, team strategy is paramount among the athletes, representing nine countries and four continents.
“Hopefully tonight around dinnertime we can gather, see where people’s fitness is … and see what we can do,” said Shalane Flanagan, captain of Team USA, “whether we need to be aggressive, or maybe not aggressive at the start and just bring it in the last few miles. We’ll talk and get a feel for everything.”
Flanagan, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist at 10,000 meters, will lead Christo Landry, Bobby Curtis, Tyler Pennel, Janet Bawcom, and Rachel Ward on an official, USATF-sanctioned Team USA, and she is looking forward to the collaboration.
“I thrive on the team atmosphere, and running for something bigger than yourself,” she said.
Yusuke Hasegawa of Japan, captain of an up-and-coming Team Asia, agreed. “I enjoy very much the team work,” said Hasegawa, who was raised in the tradition of ekiden, a distance relay format much-revered in his country. “Everyone tries to do their best to make the team the best.”
Team Asia will also include Yusuke Mita, Yuichiro Ogawa, Yuika Mori, Shiho Takechi, and Haruna Takada, all from Japan and all relishing the chance to go toe-to-toe with the world’s best. With an average age of 26, Team Asia is by far the youngest of the four teams: Team Africa is next with an average age of 28, followed by Team USA at 30 and Team Europe at 33.
As for tactics, Team Europe and Team Africa seemed to have the same plan.
“We will help each other until 5 or 6K and then go,” said Daniele Meucci of Italy, captain of Team Europe, which is composed of El Hassane Ben Lkhainouch (France), Stepan Kiselev (Russia), Christelle Daunay (France), Alyson Dixon (Great Britain), and Elena Nagovitsyna (Russia).
“You have to talk until halfway,” said Gebre Gebremariam, the 2009 IAAF World Cross Country Champion and 2010 AJC Peachtree Road Race winner who will lead Team Africa, made up of Daniel Salel (Kenya), Lusapho April (South Africa), Caroline Kilel (Kenya), Buze Diriba (Ethiopia), and Valentine Kibet (Kenya). “When we work together, we can do anything.”
In that, the teams are not unlike the 60,000 or so runners and walkers who will follow them down Peachtree Road beginning at 7:30 a.m. in what has grown into the largest 10K in the world and the largest road race in the U.S. Or the six military teams racing each other in the Kilometer Kids Charity Chase that begins at 6:53 a.m., with the teams receiving donations for Atlanta Track Club’s Kilometer Kids Youth Running Program. Or the athletes in the Shepherd Center Wheelchair Division, led by defending champion Krige Schabort and 10-time Paralympic medalist Tatyana McFadden, who will compete in a USA vs. The World format.
As Hasegawa said in the press conference, “I want to do the best for myself and for the team.”
Special thanks to the Atlanta Track Club for presser notes.