As a photojournalist in Atlanta since 1998 for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, I felt like I had seen just about everything Atlanta had to offer. The job had taken me to all parts of the Metro at all hours of the day and night. I’ve been to neighborhoods rich and poor, industrial areas, museums, abandon factories and the roofs of skyscrapers.
I thought I really knew Atlanta… until I started running.
It turned out that moving through the city at a slower pace, I saw things I had never noticed before. I would go out with no particular destination, so I could just turn down whatever street looked interesting. I discovered cool hidden parks, unmarked trails and neighborhoods I didn’t know existed.
In 2014, I became fascinated with the idea of the Beltline and how it connected Atlanta’s neighborhoods. After hours and days of studying maps, searching the internet and planning, I set off to run the entire Beltline loop, not just the completed Eastside trail that everyone knows so well, but the whole thing.
Never going more then a few miles from the center of Downtown Atlanta, I saw a microcosm of the Metro and gained a deep understanding of how Atlanta is connected–and separated–by train tracks, roads and attitudes. (Read about that adventure here.)
A year later, I ran the inaugural Great Southern Endurance Run, a 100-mile Odyssey that starts on the top of Kennesaw Mountain, winds throughout the Metro to the top of Stone Mountain, then back back to Downtown Atlanta. This was a transformative race for me that cemented my understanding of Atlanta.
These two races certainly aren’t for everyone, but if you’ve got strong legs and a desire to really know and understand the fabric that makes up Atlanta, there is no better way… they were certainly transformative for me.
If this kind of adventure interests you, check out runtheATL, a marathon and half marathon that will take you through areas of NW, SW, SE and NE Atlanta that you have never seen before. The winter version takes place this Sunday, but there’s a summer version if you need a little training time.
The Great Southern Endurance Run will take place at the end of April, information can be found here.