License plates, billboards, state signs and maps are all places you’ll find the famed Georgia peach. Easily the state’s most visible symbol, the peach has also become the iconic symbol of the AJC Peachtree Road Race.
It was at the beginning of the Georgia peach boom in the 1870s that what is now the race’s route was renamed Peachtree Street, and now a whopping 71 streets in the city boast some variation of the “Peachtree” name. But it’s become more than just a name as the race has aged over the decades. You’d be surprised just how many places in the race the peach has made its presence felt.
The peach isn't just found in the new logo of the 50th running of the race, but it’s been a mainstay since 1978 when it was first incorporated into the logo on a new finisher’s T-shirt. Over the years, not only could the symbol be found on the shirt, but the 1987 and 1992 shirts were styled the distinctive peach color.
A few more subtle places you’ll spot the illustrious peach include participant race bibs and the coveted Top 1000 mugs. Each race bib includes a hologram peach that adds some extra flair to the already coveted number. The Top 1000 finishers of the Peachtree received a commemorative limited-edition glass that also exhibits the peach. With 60,000 finishers each year, the mugs have become a cherished honor for the small fraction of runners who achieve them.
The Finish Line
Today, the finish line celebration wouldn’t be the same without the refreshing taste of a sweet Georgia peach. But veterans of the event will tell you this wasn’t always the case. The idea originally came up in 2012 thanks to Tracey Russell, the Atlanta Track Club executive director, and volunteer crew chief Herb Richardson, who was in charge of food at the finish line.
“It was a great idea and one I wish I could take credit for,” laughed Brantley Sherrer, manager of event operations. “I can’t remember a year when the peaches weren’t completely gone at the end of the race – even when some spilled from boxes the year it rained.” Clearly a crowd favorite, the peaches are here to stay.
Sherrer coordinates the logistics and delivery of the thousands of peaches from Duke Lane III and the Georgia Peach Council. Lane, partner of Genuine Georgia Group, owns and operates one of five peach farms in the state of Georgia that supplies the cases of peaches to the finish line each year.
Fresh Georgia peaches aren’t the only peach you can find at the finish line. Specially designed Frabel glass peaches are awarded to the top 20 men, top 10 women, top five masters men and women, top wheelchair athletes and the first Georgia man and woman. Founded in 1968 by Hans Godo Frabel, the Frabel Studio was selected to create the awards not only as a nod to Atlanta culture but also for the uniqueness devoted to each individual peach. Each Frabel peach is made entirely by hand and without the use of molds, with the cleft and leaves designed to resemble the hills and curves of the course.
Over the years, the one-of-a-kind peaches did not go unnoticed and soon became a sought after prized possession of competitors. One athlete who had her eye on a peach for years was 2016 Boston Marathon top American Neely Gracey. Gracey’s dad, 1991 World Championships marathon bronze medalist Steve Spence, finished fourth in the 1990 AJC Peachtree Road Race.
“Growing up, my dad kept his bronze medal from the world championships in his underwear drawer,” she recalls. “His glass peach from Peachtree was displayed on the shelf.” Clearly motivated by the award, Gracey snagged her very own peach Frabel that same year in the AJC Peachtree Road Race when she placed fourth among the women’s field.
From the logo to the finish line awards, the peach has intricately weaved its way into the fabric of the AJC Peachtree Road Race. Whether the symbol or the color, the peach has something that thousands recognize and associate with their lasting memories of the one-and-only world’s largest 10K.
This article first appeared on the Peachtree50.com site.