Why I run: preparing for the Peachtree Road Race

July 4, 2021 Atlanta - Margaret Fordham (left) and Addison Pruitt high-five after crossing the finish line during the second day of 2021 Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race on Sunday, July 4, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Combined ShapeCaption
July 4, 2021 Atlanta - Margaret Fordham (left) and Addison Pruitt high-five after crossing the finish line during the second day of 2021 Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race on Sunday, July 4, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

What the world’s largest 10k means to Atlanta runners

For over half a century, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race has been attracting runners from across the world to Georgia’s capitol city. It’s more than just the world’s longest 10k; it’s a community.

The July 4 race attracts tens of thousands of in-person runners — plus additional runners participating virtually. With less than a month to go, competitors are keeping their heads down and running shoes on. For many runners, the 10k is about far more than exercise. It’s about remembering what they are all striving for.

Atlanta Track Club asked participants to share their motivations for running and what makes this race so special to them. Here are some of their responses:

Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Michael Kennedy

I have never run this race before. When I was in high school, my self esteem was very low. I met a young lady — my tennis coach, Mary Ellen Curry. She built me up, mentally, and made me feel good as a human being. I never forgot that.

I found out through Facebook that she lives in Georgia. She encouraged me again to lose weight, and I have lost 78 pounds. I want to run this race for her and with her. I have a long way to go, but it would fulfill a dream.

ExploreAJC Peachtree Road Race 2022: What to know if you’re joining in-person

Troy Johnson

What gets me up to run? Why do I run? I run in loving memory of my wife, Paulette Johnson, who lost her life to cancer. A couple of years before she passed, I started running. She saw how happy it made me. Then I started entering racing events. She would travel with me to cheer me on when her health permitted. Before she passed, she said she wasn’t as worried about me, because she saw how running gave me a purpose. I was touched — here she was worried more about me than herself. I promised her that I would always run.

Running gave me something I could control. With her cancer, I felt so helpless. What gave my wife comfort was seeing me happy and not worrying about her. It gave her peace sometimes from her suffering, she would often tell me. So when I run and when I jump, it’s in loving memory of my sweetie!

Amanda Back

This year, I’m running in memory of my dad. He got my then-sedentary self into running when I moved back home after college by convincing me to run the 2007 Peachtree Road Race with him. We ultimately ran 15 Peachtrees in a row together. In the process, I grew into a more confident runner and have since completed many half marathons, marathons and ultramarathons.

I also met my husband thanks to my newfound habit, and he’s run 10 Peachtrees with us. Unfortunately my dad passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly in August 2021. This will be our first Peachtree without him and I will honor him by continuing our tradition, which will be hard without him.

ExploreHow to prepare to race in the hot weather

Renee Sgrosso

In a nutshell, I’m running the Peachtree this year with stage-four colon cancer — after enduring five major surgeries, including a colostomy creation, liver resection and just finishing 12 rounds of chemo. I was stuck in Northside Hospital during COVID and had to undergo multiple surgeries without my husband or children being able to visit and having to navigate life threatening complications alone. After my longest stretch in the hospital, I began walking the halls as much as I was allowed because I was so used to running and walking miles everyday before I was diagnosed.

The nurses were amazed and walking the halls is the only thing that gave me hope during this time. Once I was home, I tried walking but could only manage my driveway and eventually my cul de sac. I constantly kept pushing myself and would have to sit and rest (and cry) while I very very slowly increased my distance. In August of 2021, I had my last major surgery, a liver resection followed by 12 rounds of chemo that lasted from September 2021 to mid-March 2022.

Since finishing chemo, I have begun running, mixed in with my walking everyday. I’m able to walk/run at least five miles everyday again. This passion saved my life. I’m grateful every morning that I’m healthy enough to be outside, to be moving, to breathe fresh air and not be in a hospital or unable to move. I’m so excited to run the race again this year. It will be an amazing experience and milestone in my journey.

Oscar Ball

What motivates me to get our there and run? Well, like most soldiers, running was not what I looked forward to everyday. After retiring from the military, I decided that I was done running but I couldn’t stop. I found myself getting up five times a week at 4 a.m. to run.

It’s been 22 years since my retirement, and I am now 62 years old, so I asked myself — why? I thought about the Wounded Warriors and my brothers and sisters that served and could no longer run. It became my motivation, my cross to bear. God has graciously allowed me to still be able to run, so for as long as I can, I run for those who gave so much and are now unable to participate in a normal life. I run for the men and women of the Armed Forces who can no longer run for themselves. This has become my motivation.