AJC Peachtree Road Race runners persisted despite downpour, closure

It may have rained on their race, but who cared? Finishing was the fun part.
Mark Gorman continued walking in the rain during the Peachtree Road Race Tuesday.

Credit: Michael Gorman

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Mark Gorman continued walking in the rain during the Peachtree Road Race Tuesday.

Credit: Michael Gorman

When thunder and lightning opened in the sky around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, hundreds of runners were still on the course of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race. Mark Gorman, an Atlanta resident who walked the race with his wife, said he was about a half-mile from the finish line when the downpour began.

“If you’re dedicated to it, you will finish,” said Gorman, who had run the race eight times before he walked it Tuesday. “We told ourselves, ‘we have to get through it. We’re almost at the end. There’s no point quitting the race.’”

Gorman and his wife, Lecretia Grant Gorman, weren’t the only ones determined to keep going. Gorman said he saw hundreds of people packed onto the course as far forward as he could see and as far behind as he could see. They all seemed to keep moving after the rain started, he added, which encouraged him to continue.

Gorman said he and his wife walked through pouring rain, listening to the sounds of thunder rumbling in the distance for about 10 minutes. After they reached the finish line, the Atlanta Track Club issued a “black flag” warning, ending all event activities.

Luckily for Gorman, he was able to snag a fresh Georgia peach and, most importantly, his T-shirt, before he had to leave.

“You could hear all of the groans in the crowd when they announced the event was canceled,” Gorman said. “It’s like, we’re all here, we’re all covered in mud, we just want to enjoy all of the free stuff.”

Though Gorman and his wife crossed the finish line before the race was officially canceled, not all of the race’s competitors were so lucky. Amy Davis Evans of Athens ran the race with her family in memory of her father, William Davis, who died in 2014. Davis loved to run and particularly loved the Peachtree Road Race.

Evans, also joined by college friends, was in a large group approaching mile five when the rain started, she said. Though they were soaked and feeling miserable, she knew they were going to stick it out — even after they received messages from the Atlanta Track Club that the race was canceled.

“We wanted to finish, we were not going to give up,” Evans said. “My dad ran it for 27 years and it had become a big family tradition… We have made it a mission to do this in his honor. Unless people are telling me to get off the course themselves, I’m gonna finish.”

Runner Pauline Kamau was also just before the five-mile mark when the rain started. Shortly afterward, she heard the race had been shut down, but she, too, did not let that stop her.

“I felt like a little girl playing in the rain,” Kamau said. “It didn’t bother me. I have no regrets, I enjoyed the rain and I had a great day.”

By the time she and her friends got to Piedmont Park, Kamau said, it was nearly empty. People were taking their stands down, handing out free drinks and samples, and the cleaning crew was out in full force.

But, she said, staff were able to take her picture, record her official finish and allowed her to get a T-shirt. She added she partied away the rest of the day at a cousin’s house.

“We had our own fun — it didn’t even matter that we were wet.”

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