On July 4, Atlanta hosted the 50th AJC Peachtree Road Race – and for 35 of those years, local runner Jim Crawford has gone start to finish.
Crawford, 79, began participating in the race in 1984 as an experienced long-distance runner with previous marathons to his credit.
“After I started running, I just got hooked,” he says with a smile. “I enjoy the camaraderie, the food, the run and the people cheering you on as you run.”
The annual Peachtree Road Race, organized by the Atlanta Track Club, features 60,000 runners. Crawford says everyone is divided into 22 time groups, with the first leading off at 7 a.m. and each subsequent wave starting a few minutes after its predecessor. Crawford competed in the Men’s age 75-79 10K division.
Crawford says after all these years running the Atlanta race, the starting line has remained in front of Lenox Square, though the finished that used to go through Piedmont Park now goes along 10th Street. Along with watering stations every mile, runners also receive bananas, bagels, sports drinks, energy bars and other items to help recover.
“The crowds also have gotten a lot larger along the side of Peachtree Road, cheering the runners on,” he says.
This year, Crawford’s wife, Virginia (who used to run the race), was able to digitally track his progress toward the finish using online updates.
“The hardest part of the race is the long walk back to the MARTA station to ride to the parking lot,” Crawford says with a laugh.
Participants received an official T-shirt to commemorate each race – and Crawford has saved all of them. As his collection has grown, he says his sister will be making a quilt from the shirts to showcase his years of running.
That doesn’t mean he’s stopping, of course.
Crawford remains active as an elder at Cleveland First Presbyterian Church and works with the Jericho House. He can also be spotted running, jogging and fast-walking four or five days a week back home in Clermont.
And he plans to keep coming back to the races as long as he can.
“It’s just like a gigantic party,” Crawford says. “I just have a lot of fun.”
Crawford was not the only local runner in the field for this year's event. According to the Peachtree Road Race website, 51 runners from White County took part in the race.
Sautee-Nacoochee's Susan Aderhold was the county's top finisher, posting a time of 1:05:46 to finish ninth among 419 runners in the women's 70-74 age group. Cleveland's David George and Bernhard Park, the men's 70-74 age division.
Cleveland's Elijah Durham-Harris, Johnny Gregg, Katie Estes, Abbie Rankl, and Dawson Ball competed in the 15-19 age division. Cleveland's Madison Yates and Sarah Yates, and Helen's Brittany Clark competed in the 25-29 age division.
Cleveland's Cody Raper, Emily Raper, and Kyle Stokes ran in the 30-34 age division, with Cleveland's Jared Bruff and Rebecca Anderson running in the 35-39 age division.
Cleveland's Todd Sparks and Chastity Adams were in the 40-44 age division, with Cleveland's Kevin Bixler and Helen's Mark Rollins were in the 45-49 age field.
Cleveland's Katherine Russell, Bill Estes, Tami Wilson, Eric Harris, Steven Hall, Robert Gregg, Pat Schofill, Leslie Brown, Tony Owens, Robin Nix and Sarah Daust, and Sautee-Nacoochee's Richard Benton were in the 50-54 age group, while Donna Hayduk, Pete Wilson, Beth Black, Dede Spain, Adrianne Avery, Phillip Black and Mona Schofill, and Sautee-Nacoochee's June Benton, Susan Sunay and Melody Howarth were in the 55-59 age group.
Competing in the 60-64 age division were Cleveland's Vincent Wells, Jane Hardwick-Triplett, and Donald Hayduk, and Helen's Mark Palen and William Clark. Cleveland's Don Bennett and Claude Taylor, and Sautee-Nacoochee's Kathy Williams competed in the 65-69 age group. Cleveland's David Johnson competed in the 75-79 age division.
Editor's Note: WCN sports editor Mark Turner contributed to the story. All race information taken from the Peachtree Road Race website at results.chronotrack.com.