The concept is simple, 3.1 miles. It’s about one question: Who doesn’t like a 5k? They are a big hit among fitness crazies, neighborhood groups, charities, and for-profit companies. There is a reason there are a dozen of them every weekend. Don’t believe me, just check RunGeorgia.com on a Friday and the weekend’s lineups. There are programs designed to get you off your ass and run, and there are programs which are designed to set that PR you’ve always dreamed of. This is not one of those programs. This is not a personal training service, or a way for you to “earn” that t-shirt. This is a way for you to have fun while running. By not only paying attention to the music in your ears, but by what surrounds you. The ability to see the world in the time it takes to run (approximately) 3.1; to explore the neighborhood and see things you have never noticed before. This is 5kTL.
I love Grant Park. It’s where I chose to squat and I rarely regret it. Zoo traffic notwithstanding, it is a great place to live, play, ride, and most importantly run. The neighborhood has existed as Atlanta property since 1883. The park, along with the area surrounding it, were obtained from Colonel L.P. Grant, and the areas surrounding his home were turned into the park itself, while the surrounding land was divvied up into plots and began its first population growth in the 1890s.
In the 1980s Grant Park, and the neighborhood, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 2000 it became the City of Atlanta’s largest historic district. Currently the neighborhood is in a growth phase. Houses are going up where it’s hard to imagine houses could go. Businesses are being reborn where they once stood, and new developments are in planning stages. Through all of the new construction, the charm still remains. The trees are taller than ever and the park itself is just as welcoming. Because of this, it’s where we will have our first run together.
We’ll start near the intersection of Augusta Ave and Cherokee Ave at the main parking lot of the Atlanta Zoo. As we start we will first pass the Milledge Fountain, which can be found at the intersection of Cherokee Ave and Milledge Ave. If you run this on a Sunday morning beware of the Market which increases the foot and car traffic on the surround streets, but by all means grab yourself a cup of coffee either before or after, and get ready for the day.
Next we head north on Cherokee Ave until we reach the dead end into Memorial Drive. Straight ahead, over the brick wall is Oakland Cemetery, but we will save that for another day. As you turn right onto Memorial, make your way past two of the best rooftop bars in the city, Six Feet Under and the Republic Social House; both of which offer phenomenal views of the city and of the cemetery (if that’s what you’re in to).
Keep on going eastbound on Memorial Drive until you get to Boulevard and make a right. A slight hill will take you to the aforementioned I-20, but it gets “flat” once you cross the highway.
Stay on Boulevard and look to your right around ½ a mile down and notice the Grant Park Mansion. All I know of this house is that it was built in 1920 and has a ridiculous front porch. It does have a lot of potential to be beautiful though.
We will continue on Boulevard until we get to Atlanta Ave. Before you jump for joy over the thought of a little bit of a decline, take a look to your right and you will see what remains of Fort Walker, a key Fort for the Confederate Army during the Civil War. It is also the highest point in Grant Park. On a clear day, look towards the northwest and you will have a great view of the city.
Now, finally, it’s time to go downhill for a change. We love our hills in Atlanta, and don’t have a lot of downs. Take advantage of this one, because it goes right back up to the finish line once we get to the Atlanta Police Department’s Zone 3 precinct.
Making your way back up Cherokee Ave towards Milledge Ave take a glance to the right and see the Erskine Fountain, which is in the process of being restored. Donated to the city by Judge John Erskine in 1896, the fountain was moved to its current location in 1912.
Now it’s time to finish. Put your head down, turn your music up, and widen that stride: own that hill. Your motivation is the coffee, doughnuts, pizza, and boiled peanuts waiting for you at the farmers market.