@weststride I would absolutely love for there to be a full marathon around the Beltline! I'm sure logistics would be a nightmare at this point, but I could see that happen in the future and would sign up for sure!
@Big Peach Running - there are about 4 miles of interim hiking trails open now - along the lines of what you describe. They will eventually be paved but we are implementing 3-foot soft shoulders next to the paved trails moving forward.
One of the coolest parts of running the loop was seeing the variety of neighborhoods and how they are connected. We passed high-end homes with manicured yards to burned-out apartment buildings. It really gives you a perspective of how the city changes as you pass through it. It is also amazing to see how much growth and activity there is on the completed Eastside Trail... Boy, if that continues around the entire loop the city will be a different place.
Looks like I need to visit the Westside Trail with my pooch more often. So much space!
@Ben, what were your impressions of the neighborhoods you ran through?
@J Ferris I did not see any patrols on the unfinished portions... as a matter of fact we only saw one person on the entire Westside Trail (a dog walker from Ormwood Park). I have never felt any threat on the unfinished sections of trail, but one of the reasons I pulled some friends into the run was for safety.
@MarkB we plan to begin construction on the section south of Irwin in the second half of this year. Stay tuned!
Ethan, the Beltline is starting work on the Irwin Street to Memorial extension later this year, right?
@PeachyRuns: I especially love the Westside Trail! This is near my house, but it is also considered an "interim hiking trail." As such it is marked as Beltline and the tracks have been removed, but it is still natural surface and parts of it make you feel like you aren't in a city.
Side note: for you early birds, the Beltline's Eastside Trail isn't particularly crowded in the morning. I run around 7-8 a.m. on the weekends and it's more than manageable.
I do a lot of trail running and so do the folks I ran with... there was certainly a fair share of bushwhacking to get through some areas and quite a few spots where you could turn an ankle. There are also some pretty steep hills we had to climb.
While Ethan takes Chris's question about what parts are completed, Ben -- can you suggest places to start off the beaten path? Meaning where might one go outside of the Eastside Trail that is interesting but not too treacherous?
So the run took us 5.5 hours and ended up being just over 24 miles. The time was a little slow due to backtracking, having to figure out our way on the fly and stopping to take photos. We had to climb over a stream, fight through briers and change course on the fly at times
We'll start mixing some questions in now.
Ben, I'm also a runner. (OK, fledgling runner.) Was it easy to follow the whole course?
@BenGray,AJC: How long did it take you, and what kind of obstacles did you encounter?
Well, the idea of the run came to me over a long period of time. I live in Capitol View Manor in Southwest Atlanta, just off a future section of Beltline. This obviously got me interested in where the Beltline would go and how it would connect the city. One of my neighbors for several years was Ryon Gravel, the brains behind the original Beltline concept. Conversations with him also kept me interested in the Beltline.
I think the idea started really taking shape, though, when I started running long distances and discovered how much I loved being to see the city while running. Of course having a never-ending love for adventures helped too.
I figured I could do my best to connect the existing pieces of Beltline and make a photographic documentary of the journey along the way
While the questions come in, let’s start with you, Ben. Tell us more about how your project came about.
And on Sunday, photographer and long-distance runner Ben Gray shares his experience of running the entire 22-mile loop of the Beltline (or as close as he could get to it). See below for a video peek at Ben’s run.
This week, the AJC features two articles on the Beltline -- the first is in today’s paper and looks at the immediate impact the trails have had on intown neighborhoods. Look for a second article in Friday’s Go Guide about how to get the most from your visit to the Beltline.
Welcome to our live chat about the Atlanta Beltline. Answering your questions today are AJC reporter Katie Leslie, photographer Ben Gray and fitness blogger/WSB radio personality Madison James. We’re also pleased to welcome Ethan Davidson, Director of Communications for Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., to help us with your questions.