The first running was in 1963 at the North Fulton Golf Corse, making it the oldest in the Southeast. The following year, the Atlanta Track Club was formed, and has run the event every year since. In 1966, Tim Singleton became director, and later founded the Peachtree Road Race. Fred Lebow ran in the marathon in the late 1960s, and later founded the New York Marathon in 1970. It was held on Thanksgiving from 1981 to 2009 and was believed to be the longest of several Turkey Trots held on Thanksgiving across the country. In 2011 the race moved dates again, away from Thanksgiving, and changed the course to be a loop course.
Originally run on the weekend before Christmas, it was changed in the mid-1970s to be after the holiday. This was done in conjunction with the Peach Bowl, a bowl game held every year around New Year's Day, and it was renamed the Peach Bowl Marathon.
In 1981 the race was moved to downtown Atlanta, and the date changed to Thanksgiving in late November. This move doubled participation in the race, renamed back as the Atlanta Marathon. In 1981 and 1982 it ended in Decatur.
From 1983 to 1991, the marathon began in the suburban metro Atlanta town of Lithonia and going east through Stone Mountain, with the half-marathon beginning at the halfway point in Clarkston, and both ending in Atlanta's Piedmont Park after traversing Decatur, and the Atlanta neighborhoods of Inman Park and Virginia-Highland. This route was along the CSX railroad tracks, thus it was much less hilly than previous routes. On one occasion the race was held for a train, on another the train was held for the race.
From 1992 to 1996, it began and ended near Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, running north on Piedmont Road (Georgia 237) to Peachtree Street, where it headed north and then back south. The start of the half-marathon was near the Chamblee MARTA subway station.
From 1997 to 2009, about 90% was run along the same course used for the 1996 Summer Olympics, ending near Turner Field (built as Centennial Olympic Stadium in the A-FC stadium parking lot). The current loop course, takes in many major sites within Atlanta, including the Olympic rings.