Run Atlanta: Tread Lightly by the Graves

August 11th, 2014 | In Run Reviews, Running Meets Life, Training

There are few places that exude peace as deeply as cemeteries. They’re like public parks without screaming children and tennis courts. So I had to do a run in Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta’s oldest, most famous burial ground, where approximately 70,000 Southerners slumber eternally in the midst of the city scramble. Final home of Margaret Mitchell, Bobby Jones, Maynard Jackson, and nearly 7,000 Confederate soldiers, the cemetery holds dozens of arresting monuments, including one very sad lion, which stopped me in my tracks.

I started the run at Grant Park. I had never before noticed how utterly impossible it is to find your way from one end to the other, since all the paths snake around hills and you can never see what’s on the other side. I got lost going out and coming back in, but eventually ran smack into my car on exactly the wrong side I was expecting it to be.

From the northwest corner of the park, it’s an easy jog up to Oakland, and you cross over I-20 to get a great view of the city with the Olympic torch still standing proudly. The area is full of little restaurants and coffee shops, so definitely plan on a post-run brunch, or coming back after your shower. You should also hit Zoo Atlanta or the Cyclorama if you’re here as a visitor. They’re both in the park.

The cemetery itself is a massive grid which you can run any way you like, but don’t miss the eastern side where the Confederate monuments are. The grounds are beautifully kept, a secret garden of sorts with skyscrapers rising silently in the distance. The paths, you should be warned, are uneven brick, and the turns are sharp, so it’s not a place to run fast – you’ve got to be willing to jog it and enjoy the scenery. But for runners looking to simply stretch their legs and relax, there’s no better place.

Course Highlights:

  • If you want to liven up your graveyard run, treat it like a treasure hunt. Try to find these 4 monuments in less than 10 minutes:
    • Margaret Mitchell Marsh’s grave
    • The Lion of the Confederacy
    • The mausoleum of Antoine Graves
    • The highest-standing angel

Course Notes:

  • Total ascent: 98.63 ft.
  • Canopy: variable
  • Pit stops: there are a few water fountains in Grant Park


  • Park at Grant Park and find your way to the northwest corner
  • Head north on Cherokee Ave.
  • Where it dead-ends at Memorial Dr., Oakland Cemetery is across the street. Head in
  • Wind your way through the cemetery for as long as you please
  • Head back south on Cherokee Ave. to Grant Park

Add distance by:

  • Spending more time running through and around the park.
  • From Cherokee Ave., head west on Georgia Ave. (about halfway along Grant Park’s western border) to circle around Turner Field and see the Olympic torch up close. It’ll add about 2.4 miles to your run.

Written by: Emily OvercarshOakland Cemetery Map

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