By Rich Kenah, CEO of the Atlanta Track Club
When Atlanta Track Club was founded in 1964, its focus was competition. While we have always welcomed everyone at our events regardless of speed, age, gender or race − as shown by the growth of our flagship event, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race, into the largest of its kind in the world by the 1990s − it was the competitive runner for whom we curated our year-round programming.
But about 10 years ago, the Club’s mission, vision and programming began to evolve with an eye toward making all of Atlanta healthier physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. We recognized that running and walking together connect us in ways that no other endeavor can achieve. And since the onset of COVID, it has become ever more clear that when it comes to connecting people and neighborhoods, the Atlanta BeltLine is the gold standard.
Atlanta BeltLine Partnership and Atlanta Track Club launched our running series in 2022 with a belief that programming the BeltLine with running and walking would help catalyze a radical transformation of Atlanta into one of the healthiest cities in the United States. While we are closer to the beginning than the end of that long journey, the data so far from our modest collaboration is promising.
The Atlanta BeltLine and Atlanta Track Club currently have three events in our Atlanta BeltLine Race Series. The Northside BeltLine 3K – 5K took place in April, the Westside Beltline 5K – 8K was staged in July and the upcoming Eastside BeltLine 3K – 10K is scheduled for December 9, with registration available here. Similarly, we have a free-to-all BeltLine Run Club meet-up program that rotates to different locations around the BeltLine each week. Details of these social meet-ups can be found here.
Here is what we have found since the first race of the series was held in April of last year:
- Despite the fact that most road races have seen continued contraction during that time, our most recent race in the series, the Westside BeltLine 5K – 8K at Lee + White on July 15 sold out, with a year-over-year participant increase of more than 25%.
- 82% of the Westside BeltLine participants were new to the series.
- 33% of the participants in BeltLine races are 25-34 years old, with the largest demographic from 25-29. That’s 11% higher than the industry as a whole, demonstrating the appeal of series to younger participants.
- Corporate interest in supporting the two non-profits in their efforts to get people moving forward is strong, with Resurgens Orthopaedics signing on as a presenting partner of the series.
- Attendance at Thursday night BeltLine Run Club meet-ups, which are designed to be small, routinely hits more than 100 for a 2- to 4-mile run/walk experience followed up by a pint or two at BeltLine brewery destinations.
It is my belief that the future of Atlanta will be found at the intersection of mission-focused organizations such as Atlanta BeltLine Partnership and Atlanta Track Club and the work they do here in what we like to call Running City USA. In this case, that intersection can be found on a path that was once a former rail line, connecting neighborhoods that until recently had no reason to talk, walk or run together.