Rick Shimandle gets surprised Wednesday, July 4, at the annual AJC Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta by his daughters. Shown with Shimandle are Kennsington Jones (from left), Teanna Wilson and Alexandria Wilhite. JENNA EASON / JENNA.EASON@COXINC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

This Life with Gracie: Surprise! Daddy, you’re walking the Peachtree

Rick Shimandle just about fainted when his daughter jumped from behind the parked car on Oak Valley Road, just beyond the starting point for the final wave of the 49th annual AJC Peachtree Road Race.

It was exactly 8:33 a.m. Wednesday. Tears stained Rick’s face as he realized he was about to walk the 6.2-mile trek with his daughters and two sons-in-law.

They and their mother, Adie, had been planning this moment for nearly four months, and now it was finally happening.

Except for daughter Teanna of Jacksonville, Fla., and the sons-in-law, all of them had run the Peachtree at least once, and this would be Adie’s 25th run.

As for Rick, the notion had never even occurred to him.

This one was a first.

It was a family affair for Gwinnett dad Rick Shimandle’s first AJC Peachtree Road Race: Daughter Charleaze Langley (from left), wife Adie Shimandle, daughter Alexandria Wilhite, Rick Shimandle, daughter Kennsington Jones, son-in-law Donovan Wilhite IV, and daughter Teanna Wilson are shown at the finish line. The daughters came from near and far (Sugar Hill, Flowery Branch, Jacksonville, Fla., and Las Vegas) to support their dad. CONTRIBUTED

Just four months ago, he couldn’t have attempted such a long and rigorous walk. After putting on extra pounds, his knees hurt. Walking long distances was out of the question.

But as his 40th wedding anniversary approached last March, his wife, Adie, got to thinking.

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Playing on the St. Andrews Links in Scotland, the place where golf was born, had long been on their bucket list, and it seemed the perfect way to celebrate. The problem was securing a place on the Old Course can take up to 18 months and carts aren’t allowed. If you wanna play, you have to walk.

She knew it was a long shot, but in November, Adie put out inquiries to several different companies for the best golf packages. She was on a business trip in February when she got a call from Pioneer Golf. They had a cancellation at the Old Course for June 1.

Was she interested?

Adie was beside herself.

“Yes, book it,” she told them.

She hung up the phone. Rick had to get in shape and quick.

Then she got another decidedly devious and delightful idea to surprise Rick.

Adie Shimandle (left) set up some surprises for her husband, Rick. She signed him up for his first AJC Peachtree Road Race, and he was joined by his daughters, including Teanna Wilson (second from left), Kennsington Jones (center) and Alexandria Wilhite. JENNA EASON / JENNA.EASON@COXINC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

If he could get into shape for the courses of Scotland, Adie wondered, why not the Peachtree Road Race — something he’d never think to do.

She called their five children.

They laughed but liked the idea. Son Richard the III couldn’t be there, but the daughters and their husbands would be more than happy to be a part of the Shimandle Daddy Team.

>> RELATED | Check out 2018 AJC Peachtree Road Race results

It was an odd request seeing how their dad would have to walk 6.2 miles, but what could be more important than doing something to honor and thank their dad for all he has done and still does for their family?

For as long as they’d known him, he’d never asked anything for himself. They were the center of his life and everyone knew it.

After the marriage of Rick and Adie in 1978, five children came in quick succession. Charleaze first, then Teanna, Alexandria, Kennsington and Richard III. He was a busy man.

July Fourth was a time for family and surprises at the AJC Peachtree Road Race for Rick Shimandle. With him here are his wife, Adie (left), and three of his daughters: Kennsington Jones (second from left), Teanna Wilson (center) and Alexandria Wilhite. JENNA EASON / JENNA.EASON@COXINC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Over the years, Rick coached or was an assistant coach for each of their soccer teams, cheering them on in swim meets, helping them with nightly homework, inspiring them to be their best in school, supporting them in their life choices. He painted their nails, watched chick flicks with them and braided their hair.

Once when Adie took a job paying nearly half of what she’d earned in a previous position so she could return to college to complete her bachelor’s degree, Rick took a part-time, second job to help cover the loss in family revenue.

After putting in eight hours at his day job, he’d drive over to the neighborhood Home Depot, take a quick 90-minute nap in his car and head in to work the 6-10 p.m. shift as an associate.

Even though Adie has kept in shape all these years, Rick, after the soccer years came to an end, led a pretty sedentary life.

He and Adie would golf, but her idea of golfing is to hit the ball, then run to wherever it lands. His idea was to drive to the place the ball landed.

In February, they started to work out together. For five days a week, he got up early and after a long day at work, came home to hit the bike for 3-4 miles, then walk 2 more miles with the love of his life at Lenora Park in Snellville.

>> RELATED | Which 5K/10K improves lives, qualifies you for AJC Peachtree Road Race?

By late May, when they boarded their flight to Scotland, Rick could walk 3 miles without breaking a sweat, go 7 if he were on the elliptical bike. He’d lost a few pounds and his knees no longer hurt.

In mid-March, Adie secretly entered Rick in the Peachtree Road Race with the rest of them.

Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

For weeks, she spoke in whispers, taking photos as Rick slimmed down, designing shirts for team members, planning the logistics.

As the July Fourth holiday drew nigh, the excitement she and her daughters felt was palpable. If only Richard III, 4,000 miles away at York St. John University in York, England, could be here, too.

They were pretty sure Rick would cry when he saw his daughters at the starting line and realized he’d been suckered.

And they were right. The tears flowed like water down a mountain.

“I can’t believe this,” he said after realizing what was happening. “What a surprise.”

Shocked, he stood there for a moment before collecting himself and heading out with his daughters at his side.

They joined the wave and headed to the official starting line. At exactly 8:40 a.m., they were on their way, chattering, laughing, soaking in the moments.

Rick was just about 3 miles in, when he got the urge to call Uber but resisted.

At exactly 11 a.m., two hours and 20 minutes later, they crossed the finish line.

“I made it,” he said, with a big grin. “Hallelujah!”

Find Gracie on Facebook (www.facebook.com/graciestaplesajc/) and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at gstaples@ajc.com.

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