A review of the news that made The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s front pages through the decades.

“It takes a real nut to get out and run like this,” Jeff Galloway said after beating the summer heat and a small field to win the inaugural Peachtree Road Race in 1970, “and I’m a nut.”

Fast forward to 2021 and the AJC Peachtree Road Race now attracts 60,000 competitors, including elite runners from around the globe. Due to the pandemic, the massive field will be split up this year. Runners can choose to race July 3 or take part in the traditional July 4 event.

“We want to give ourselves the most opportunity to deliver a Peachtree at scale. The best opportunity for that is a Peachtree over two days,” Atlanta Track Club Executive Director Rich Kenah told the AJC’s Doug Roberson in January.

And participants in the world’s largest 10K have the option of hitting Atlanta’s streets in person or virtually, thanks to technology.

Credit: AJC file

Credit: AJC file

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The current field dwarfs the original 150 runners who set off from Buckhead to downtown Atlanta as part of the inaugural race July 4, 1970. Of those Galloway-termed Peachtree Road Race “nuts,” 110 finished.

“At 9:25 (in the) morning, they lined up in the southbound lanes of Peachtree, and precisely at 9:30 they were off, headed for the Equitable Plaza fountain,” the Constitution’s Joe Litsch wrote in an article published July 5, 1970. Until 1978, the race ended downtown at Central City Plaza, now called Woodruff Park.

Galloway steadily pulled away from the pack to take the win.

Credit: Atlanta Track Club

Credit: Atlanta Track Club

“It took about two blocks to tell that Galloway was serious about this running business,” Litsch wrote. “But later, (he) moved ahead and reached Piedmont Hospital first. He hit the halfway point, Brookwood Station, at 16 minutes.

“By this time, the field of runners was stretched for a couple of miles and thoughts of taking a shortcut down Spring Street crossed several minds,” Litsch continued. “On down Peachtree to the West Peachtree turnoff. A right turn and Galloway was two blocks ahead of (his nearest competitor) and the rest of the field was still out of sight.”

Galloway crossed the first finish line with a time of 32 minutes, 21 seconds. Gayle Barron took first place among the women with a time of 49 minutes, 13 seconds.

In 2019, the last pre-pandemic race with runners competing in person on July 4, Kenyans Rhonex Kipruto and Brigid Kosgei shattered course records, each earning a $50,000 bonus for doing so. Kipruto finished in 27 minutes, one second; Kosgei’s time was 30 minutes, 22 seconds. The 2020 winners were still speedy, with Molly Seidel of Cambridge, Mass., taking the women’s race in 34 minutes, 39 seconds, and men’s winner Chris Maxwell of Portland, Ore., besting the field with a time of 30 minutes, 30 seconds.

Back in 1970, however, as Jeff Galloway pounded the pavement, the Peachtree Road Race legend experienced a moment familiar to many who have laced up sneakers for that hot trek 6.2 miles from Lenox Square to Piedmont Park.

“As he pulled out to a lonely lead,” AJC Sports columnist Steve Hummer wrote in 2019, “Galloway had but a single dominant thought: ‘I just wanted to get it over with.’”


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