Chat with Peachtree Road Race's ultimate Iron Man

Bill Thorn helped found a school — Landmark Christian in Fairburn — and has coached the school's cross-country teams to 27 state championships in 20 years. Another imprint Thorn has left on the metro Atlanta sports landscape is his status as the only runner to have competed in every Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race. Earlier this week, Thorn, 78, shared his thoughts on running and the Peachtree.

• Thorn is not particularly finicky about his shoes. When Smith & Davis Clothing, a store in Fayetteville, has tent sales, Thorn stocks up. He wore a pair of Mizunos in the race last year, and this year he plans to wear a pair of silver-and-blue Sauconys. "Jeff Galloway probably won't approve of it," Thorn said of the owner of the running store Phidippides, " but you gotta do what you gotta do."

• Speaking of shoes, Thorn has kept all of his running shoes, storing them and in his closet and in garbage bags in his attic, to the chagrin of his wife, Patty. He said that in the first Peachtree, he thinks he ran in coaching shoes and coaching shorts. "It was just a totally different [time]," Thorn said. "The [running gear] style did not come out till later."

• From his home in Tyrone, he gets an early start on the Fourth. In order to meet his pastor and running partner (Rev. Howard Dial) at the College Park MARTA station at 5:30 a.m., he needs to leave his home by 5, which means getting out of bed by 4 or 4:30 a.m. This year is slightly earlier than normal. The track club is honoring the original 110 runners by having them start at 7:22 a.m., eight minutes before the start of the elite race. Typically, Thorn starts in Time Group 2.

• Thorn's daily regimen: Three sets of 40 push-ups, 60 sit-ups and 100 "bounds" on his trampoline. He also will do another 30-40 minutes running in place on the trampoline or riding his exercise bike or a run/walk combination outside, and then stretching exercises.

• Two sayings that Thorn shares with his runners at Landmark Christian: "When it's hard to run, run hard." "In running, you've got to deal with three things — sweat, discomfort and heavy breathing. If you can't deal with those three things, then running isn't for you."

• While Thorn has battled prostate cancer since 1997, fighting it with exercise, vitamins and a healthy diet, his closest call to missing many came years before. In one of the early races, when the race started at the intersection of Peachtree and West Paces Ferry roads, he was in the bathroom of a gas station near the starting line when he heard the gun go off. Thorn tore out of the bathroom and sprinted down Peachtree to catch up with the pack.

• Thorn has all of his Peachtree T-shirts and stores them in his attic. He does not risk wearing them, he said, because "I'm the only one that's got a full collection." He trimmed one of his first shirts in the midriff-baring fashion of the time. Said Thorn, "I'd give anything if I hadn't done that."

• Thorn has no plans to stop. "It'll be good if I could make it to 50, but we'll see. One year at a time. It's like I tell the kids: 'How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.' "

• Thorn guesses his time will be between 75 and 80 minutes. Last year, he ran the whole way. "Oh, that hurt," he said. He feels no compunction to do it again. Said Thorn, with a laugh, "I haven't got to prove anything."