98-year-old Atlanta running icon completes 34th AJC Peachtree Road Race

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

At the mile mark of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race, a group of nine spectators gather under a tent emblazoned with the words “Team Betty.” While they cheer on all the runners who pass, they are waiting for one runner in particular: 98-year-old Betty Lindberg.

Several runners call out “she’s coming” as they run past the stand. When Lindberg arrives — right on schedule at 7:20 a.m. — her family and friends rush to greet her with signs and hugs.

This year was Lindberg’s 34th run of the annual 10-kilometer race. She was accompanied by her son, daughter-in-law, and nephew on the course this year.

Among the friends and family at the stand were Lindberg’s granddaughter, Nicole Boolukos, and daughter, Kerry McBrayer. Boolukos said they have been coming out to support Betty from the sidelines for about nine years.

“It just grew and grew and now we have a tent and more people show up,” Boolukos said.

Since she took up running at 64 years old, Lindberg has established herself as a local running legend. At 91, she broke the world record in the 800-meter for her age group and set an age group world record of 55 minutes, 48 seconds at the 2022 Atlanta Publix 5k.

Lindberg has lived in the same house in Atlanta since 1960, where the dozens of trophies she’s won racing over the years are tightly packed in a box under her bed. Her 5k world record ribbon is tucked in a drawer.

The fate of this year’s medal is no different.

“I’ll throw it in the drawer, with the other stuff,” Lindberg said.

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Lindberg beat her goal time for the race by five minutes, completing it in two hours and fifteen minutes. At the finish line, she was proud to announce that she “never stopped,” a big achievement after a disappointing race last year when she said she stopped 10 times.

“I kept going,” Lindberg said at today’s finish line. “I had a few pains, but they went away.”

Sitting in an armchair in her living room a week before the race, Lindberg said she was determined to reach her goal.

“I’m trained for it, and I have all the confidence in the world that I’m going to be able to do it,” she said. “Even on the hills, it’s going to be slow going up the hills. I’m going to make it.”

Ahead of this year’s race, she worked with Atlanta Track Club Manager Bob Wells, as well as a nutritionist, to create a training and nutrition plan to set her up for success. Under Wells’ plan, Lindberg alternated running and walking on Sundays through Fridays. On Saturdays, she got her hair done.

When the course gets difficult, Lindberg said she tells herself “you’ve got to keep moving.”

Wells praised Lindberg for her dedication in training.

“Betty is just amazing,” Wells said. “I wish more of my athletes were like Betty.”

The family plans to continue rallying around Lindberg, with McBrayer saying her mother will “be doing it at 100.”

“We love that everyone loves her as much as we do,” Boolukos said. “It’s fun to see her be humble about that.”

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com