If you thought you heard the unmistakable songs of Michael Jackson in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday morning, you weren’t hallucinating. Each year many Midtown stores and restaurants set up shop on Peachtree Road for the race, providing music, refreshments and encouragement for runners and onlookers alike.
Spectators filled Midtown's restaurants along Peachtree to watch the race and grab a celebratory beer. Jeff Chancellor, met his friends at Tap, a pub near 14th Street. “We’ve been here since 7 am,” he said, “I’ll be seeing the fireworks tonight.”
Jose Suarez, 41, is a DJ who set up his speakers in front of Imperial Fez in Buckhead. “We do this every year,” he said. Suarez said this was his fifth year playing for the race. He usually plays a mix of hip-hop as well as Arabic and Spanish songs.
Further south, Newton Running, an athletic footwear store, set up a couple of tents in front of Varasano’s Pizzeria, providing beer for runners instead of water. Jim Whitlow, owner of Newton affiliate DEKA, was enthusiastic about coming out and supporting the runners. “We’ll do keg stands at the end,” he said.
Varasano’s had given Whitlow permission to set up in front of the store for the second year in a row and brought out pizza for spectators in the morning.
Also at the Newton tent was Stephen Pifer, an Olympic runner who had just returned from competing in the 1500-meter trials in Eugene, OR, where he was eliminated in the semifinals. Pifer decided not to run the race this year. “I’m just gonna enjoy life,” he said.
Up at Peachtree Battle, Holeman & Finch bottle shop set up a punch station which they called the “Defibrillator,” because of its position right before one of the race’s challenging spots, Heartbreak Hill.
H&F director of hospitality Judith Winfrey, who ran the race last year, said that the store had juiced twenty watermelons and around twenty pounds of limes for their punch. “We’re here to represent Atlanta,” she said. Winfrey said H&F plans to keep coming out for the race.