What Atlantans who run every day have in common

Running for your life takes on new meaning when considering Atlanta area runners who don't mind hitting the track every day.

Whether one is sprinting toward a finish line for the reward of a tangible prize, or simply for the sheer satisfaction of a finished race and a few hundred steps toward better health, runners who run every day share a ton of commonalities.

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Just ask Claud Spinks.

Spinks is not only an avid runner, but he's a running coach. Having just entered his 12 year as Eagle's Landing High School's head track and field and cross country coach, Spinks gets the chance to tutor some of Georgia's most talented competitive runners, and he's done it enough to notice some trends.

"In most cases the hobby jogger and competitive runner share their love for the feeling they get from running," Spinks said. "The accomplishment of the run, or even the race. Rarely do the mortals do all the same things as the elites in terms of training. But there's also the social camaraderie of the run that they share."

Spinks has helped runners who have gone on to have major NCAA Division I success, but he can give a seemingly endless list of runners he's coached who started running just as something to do, or as a way to keep in shape for other sports, only to end up falling in love with running enough to want to keep doing it even when competitive days are done.

Such is the case with Devin Dixon, a 2016 graduate of Eagle's Landing High School in McDonough. He started running cross country at the school to stay in shape for basketball. He soon ditched his hoops dreams to take on running full time. Three high school state championships later, Dixon is now running on scholarship at Texas A&M University.

He said he's gotten so hooked on running, however, that he can't see himself not wanting to put his running shoes to the ground every day for the rest of his life.

"I guess I just fell in love with the way running makes me feel," Dixon said. "Even beyond the competitive side of it, running just makes your mind and your body feel alive."

Dixon's sentiments sound similar to those of Clayton State student Wes Purcell who has competed regularly in such races as the Peachtree Road Race, the Berry Half Marathon, Torching the Trail For Burns 5K and the Children's Hospital of Atlanta Strong Legs 10K run.

"It's the free feeling I get from running that invigorates me," Purcell said. Purcell has never competed for state championships in high school, and he doesn't run for his university. But he enjoys the challenge of besting his biggest competition — himself. In fact, his first long distance run was one that had more to do with his own personal freedom than trying to win a race.

"I started running when I decided to straighten out my life out and needed positive activities to replace the negative ones," he said. "I started exercising while in jail, doing upper body workouts and all that. The day I got released I was so excited that I started running through the parking lot. I continued running all the way to my uncle's house which was about five miles away because I didn't have a ride.

"I haven't really stopped running, since."

That's why Purcell said he knows all about that camaraderie between runners on the track or trail that Spinks refers to. He feels like he knows what drives every runner, regardless of the where or why they run.

"I just enjoy the satisfaction of challenging myself and pushing my body further than I knew possible," he said. Any runner I know, no matter what level the run or compete, says the same thing, and you can see it and feel it when you're out there running with others. All runners have the desire to live healthy lifestyles and the motivation to be better than they were yesterday. We're all goal oriented and determined."

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