- Alex Makrides
Johnny Buice stuck out among the crowd of runners who finished the AJC Peachtree Road Race.
Instead of wearing traditional running clothes such as a t-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes. Buice decided he would wear a special outfit with an equally special meaning behind it.
He dawned a large charcoal-colored jacket with neon yellow trim going around his waist and cuffs. His big, baggy pants matched his jacket as did the boots he ran in. Atop his head sat a rustic-red helmet with lettering to difficult to read from years of work. And over his shoulder, he proudly carried an American flag.
Buice was a fireman his whole life and just because he has been retired for three years now, doesn’t mean he still can save lives.
“We do this to spread the message to other firefighters to stay fit because the leading cause of death of firefighters, over 50 percent, is heart attack,” Buice said.
The 62-year-old began wearing his fireman’s suit at every Peachtree Road Race after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.
“We wanted to show how much appreciate firefighters and the entire emergency services back then,” Buice said. “Now we wear them to inspire others to become healthy. You have to be cardio fit to work as a serviceman.”
In year’s past, Buice would run with a 22-pound piece of equipment on his back. The oxygen tank that firefighters carry on their backs are vital to their safety when trying to quell a fire. On this day though, Buice decided to run without heavy apparatus weighing him down.
“I have had some knee problems so I decided to leave it in the car,” Buice said.
“He finally listened to me,” Buice’s son Josh Buice said with a chuckle.
This was also a special race for older Buice because he was able to recruit another generation in his family to run. Nine-year-old John Mark Buice, Johnny’s grandson and Josh’s son, ran in his first Peachtree Road Race. In 1986, Buice introduced his son to the race when he was just nine years old too.
“I am extremely proud of my dad,” Josh Buice said. “He has been an encouragement to me ever since I ran this with him at nine years old and now he is one to my son.”