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Feature Stories
12/15/2023 by Barbara Huebner

"Race the Loop!" is All About the Connections

MeiMei and Scout were ready to race. Soon, they would complete the "Race the Loop!" series of 2023 Beltline events offered by Atlanta Track Club and the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership.

Alexandra McCartney and her Labradoodles, MeiMei and Scout

The 3-year-old Labradoodles referred inquiries to their spokeswoman. "They love it," said Alexandra McCartney. "They love all the people."

McCartney, 33, and her canine companions were milling around at the start line of the Eastside Beltline 3K-10K, presented by Resurgens Orthopaedics. (To be fair, the dogs were milling around, or at least trying to; McCartney was attempting to stand still). The 10K, in which dog dad Don was racing, had just taken off, and participants for the dog- and stroller-friendly 3K were getting ready to line up.

"These are the races I look forward to the most," said McCartney, of Marietta. As a participant, she called herself "more casual" than her husband, "so it's nice to have something more on my level, with the puppies. They stop every five seconds to sniff, so it's not about time."

The December 9 Eastside event was the last of three races, all presented by Resurgens Orthopaedics, in the 2023 "Race the Loop!" series, which kicked off with the Northside BeltLine 3K-5K on April 15, followed by the Westside BeltLine 5K-8K on July 15. (At each event, the shorter distance was noncompetitive and open participants tugged along by dogs or pushing strollers.)

The series will return in 2024, kicking off with the Northside BeltLine 3K-5K on April 20. Registration will open in 2024, and those interested can view all Atlanta BeltLine Race Series event dates on Atlanta Track Club's website.

"Race the Loop! of the Atlanta BeltLine Race Series connects runners and walkers to the BeltLine for a fun and unique experience," said Rob Brawner, executive director of Atlanta BeltLine Partnership. "It is an outstanding partnership with the Atlanta Track Club, and we are excited to continue the collaboration next year."

After co-hosting free weekly group runs and walks since 2019 on different sections of the trail, the Club and BeltLine teamed up in 2022 to launch the race series, which grew from 3,872 total participants in the first year to 4,760 in the second - an increase of 23 percent - with the Westside event selling out before race day. (The Atlanta BeltLine Partnership had previously held annual races on the Northside, Eastside and Westside trails, but suspended them in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19.) This year, the series offered a commemorative silicone drinking glass to anyone completing all three races - a reward achieved by 147 participants.

"The BeltLine Series races are a welcome addition to and deviation from the Club's more traditional road races," said Rich Kenah, CEO of Atlanta Track Club. "This collaboration with Atlanta BeltLine Partnership is a force multiplier for the Club, Beltline and our series partners, who see a healthier Atlanta ahead through connected communities. Everyone who Raced the Loop had a chance to see those connections up close."

Every BeltLine event offered participants more than just the race. At the Eastside finale, finishers availed themselves of free beer from BrewDog, free coffee from Dancing Goats and make-your-own s'mores over a portable campfire from Rivian. At the Westside races, participants could enjoy post-race pickleball and free beer from Monday Night Brewing; on the Northside, it was cornhole.

Jason Veclotch and Jessica Ridley

Asked what he enjoyed most about the series, Jason Veclotch - heading for the beer after his 8 th -place finish in the 10K at Eastside - said, "All the sections of the BeltLine are nice and they kind of have different characteristics, so it's nice to see all the different areas." Veclotch, of Peachtree City, saw them all at a fast pace - he finished in the Top 10 in each. His wife, Jessica Ridley, placed among the Top 3 in all.

Fittingly, also among Race the Loopers were at least two participants who actually helped construct the BeltLine: Tim Evans and L'Tanya Hall. Each is employed by firms with a wellness component that encourages activity: Evans for the Georgia Department of Transportation and Hall for CERM (Corporate Environmental Risk Management).

Nicole Quilliam at the 2023 Eastside BeltLine 10K

"It felt good to run on the finished product," said Evans of the Westside trail, on which he helped pour concrete. "Running that race was my first time on it. I thought 'this turned out really well.'"

Hall, who ran with a group from her company, shared his sentiment: "We got an opportunity to see the work we've done."

And one woman not only ran all three races but won them all.

"I love these races," said Nicole Quilliam, 30, from Atlanta. "I can't wait 'til next year."