I ran my first Peachtree in the Bicentennial Year 1976 waving a little American Flag, and have run and completed every one since. This year will be my 35th and possibly last. I will be 29 days short of 77 years old.
It all got started in June 1975 when my father-in-law, Bill Ashton, age 67, challenged me to race him around the block. I weighed well over 200 pounds and 5 feet 8 inches tall, smoking 3 to 4 packs of cigarettes a day. I was totally sedentary. Bill, who lived into his early 90’s was in “Full Cleveland,” meaning he was wearing white shoes and a white belt. I was totally shocked as he left me standing still, and I yet have a vivid picture of the white vinyl soles of his shoes, as he galloped up the hill. I made it as far as a telephone pole about fifty feet from the start, and hung on to one of the rungs.
That was the shock I needed. I learned about Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s book, Aerobics, which I read and found interesting and useful. I was not counting on running, because I could only run a few steps before having to walk. I was satisfied getting my ’30 points a week’ walking, which I did for a couple of months, then started running a little. By October I was running five laps around that block, about 2.5 miles. I also went backpacking with my son Darwin that month, without any cigarettes and haven’t smoked one since that excursion. I gradually increased my distance, all the while reading books by Jim Fixx, George Sheehan, Arthur Lydiard and Jeff Galloway, most of them after that first Peachtree in 1976. I believe there were about 1200 runners. The race started at where Sears was on Peachtree and finished I believe at Davison’s. My time was 54 minutes and some seconds but I didn’t get a T-shirt because there weren’t enough, and there were no chutes to control the finish line.
Since that time I have run the race many times with as many as many 9 family members. My youngest son Clay ran it when he was 7 years old in 1984. He didn’t train again for many years, but has picked up the healthy habit, and is also running road races, including Peachtree and the Marine Corps Marathon in DC where he lives.
I lost down to 148 pounds when I was my leanest shape, have been steady at about 165 pounds for many years. I qualified for and ran the Boston Marathon twice, and have run and completed 33 marathons altogether.
Now I enjoy running local races and the Snickers Marathon Energy Bar Marathon, which passes in front of my house in Albany. In 2009 I missed it because I had cardiac catheterization a week before the race. My wife Joy and I played Beetles’ and ABBA’s music and passed out orange slices to the runners of both the marathon and half marathon. I took pictures and got a great shot of the 3 Marathon leaders with all 6 feet off the ground!
Children and their spouses, nephews and grand children will finish this one way ahead of me, but I will totally enjoy every minute, including the regular spectators I will recognize, who, I think, have been hanging out on Peachtree Road July 4 morning as long as I have.