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Atlanta’s Peachtree Road Race resumes after COVID-19 closure

July 3, 2021 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) — Some 13,000 runners took to the streets of Atlanta on Saturday to welcome the return of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race, a Fourth of July holiday tradition.

Previous years saw about 60,000 runners cross the starting line in front of Lenox Mall in the city’s Buckhead neighborhood. This year, the race was broken into two separate days to help with social distancing. About 18,000 runners are expected to run on Sunday including four of the six marathon runners who will represent the U.S. at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

Race Director Rich Kenah said they split the event primarily as a safety precaution to limit any potential COVID-19 exposure among the runners, WSB-TV reported.

To participate, runners either had to show proof that they have been vaccinated or had to go through a screening process for COVID-19. The race was held virtually last year in response to the pandemic.

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Erin Lawson, who has run the race seven times, told the television station she was just happy to be back out and racing with others.

“We are so excited! I think I speak for everyone so excited to be live. Virtual is just not the same,” Lawson said. “It’s a little different being two days this year but we’re excited to be back in race mode with all the lights and flags it’s awesome.”

The fastest woman on the course Saturday morning was Jessica Smith. She said she could not have been more excited to compete again.

“I’m feeling really good. It was definitely a good course. We have a beautiful day and we could not get more lucky with the weather,” Smith said. “It was a great race overall.”

Another big change for the race is that there will be no spectators allowed at the finish line near Piedmont Park.

“We have a perimeter around the park which prevents those who are not participating from coming in this year,” Kenah said.

Kenah said that change is to help keep people safe and spread out.

Dan Kolber said he has been running the race for years and has no problem with the safety measures.

“It was gone last year. This is the most fulfilling thing since this pandemic hit,” Kolber said.