AJC Peachtree Road race: It’s a sister thing

Even with two sobbing young girls, Holly Peeples’ wedding was beautiful.

Families filled the Zebulon Baptist Church in tiny Toccoa, with its gray spire spouting up between a thicket of trees and a small cemetery, and they sent 17-year-old Peeples and her husband off to a honeymoon in Tennessee.

Those misty-eyed little girls — Peeples’ 5- and 9-year-old sisters — tried their best to nix the celebration and keep their sister home, but they couldn’t quite do it.

“We just thought we were never going to see her again,” Kandi Murphy, the middle sister, said with a laugh. “I think we held on to her dress when she was trying to leave for the honeymoon.”

Good news: They did see each other again. Peeples and Murphy, now 46 and 38, live in Toccoa and Kristen Bisanz, 34, lives in North Carolina.

Their mother worked into the night as a nurse, so Peeples acted as a second mother growing up. But since that 1986 wedding, the three sisters have become best friends. Each has her own family now, but they still get together for holidays and meet whenever they can.

And over the past four years they’ve added another mandatory sister holiday to their calendar: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race.

“Just like you know you’re going to go on vacation every year, we know we’re going to do this every year, so it’s a priority,” Murphy said. “As soon as Christmas is over we start talking about, ‘OK it’s going to come out in March, when we can register.’”

That’s not an exaggeration, according to Murphy’s 15-year-old son, Dylan.

“She talks about it all the time,” he said.

Dylan’s mother and two aunts have emphasized health and fitness since Peeples started jazzercise classes 25 years ago, and Murphy, whom Peeples called “the athletic one,” played softball in high school.

But they aren’t runners, per se. They don’t run in any other races throughout the year and they don’t train for the Peachtree Road Race. Murphy said she starts checking Atlanta weather a week in advance, but that’s about it in terms of preparation.

“It’s not just about running the race for us,” Peeples said. “We spend the night there the night before. We just laugh. It’s so much fun, and just seeing everything that goes on.”

Everything that goes on?

“You have people lined up and down the streets that you don’t even know, but yet they’re cheering you on,” Murphy said. “So it’s just music playing, it’s just a huge party and you don’t even realize you’re doing this race while you’re having a party.”

A setting that matches the sisters’ relationship, which Murphy described as “crazy.”

“I don’t know if that’s a good word, but anyways it’s just always laughing,” she said. “Just always somebody is either saying something crazy or doing something crazy, or just — crazy.”

Crazy, as when Murphy and Bisanz lose Peeples during the race because she’s flocked to the radio station tents to grab free stuff.

Crazy, as when Peeples crashed a business’ post-race party two years ago to use the bathroom and collect a stash of cookies.

Crazy, as when the small-town sisters tried to navigate through Atlanta last year after the race, failed, and then used Uber to drive about 500 feet to their car.

Crazy, as when Bisanz got a flat tire on her way from North Carolina last year and still made it in time.

Or crazy, as when Murphy splashed through the muddy finish line two years ago with her brand-new, $150 running shoes.

“I was just beside myself,” Murphy said. “But you know that didn’t stop me from going back and doing it again, so I guess that shows you how much fun it is.”

The sisters have a brother, Chad Murray, 45, who got “all the good genes,” according to Peeples. But he won’t be lacing up at 6 a.m. on the Fourth of July.

“We offered to pay his way, and he says that nobody’s chasing him so he’s not going to be running right now,” Peeples said.

And apparently Peeples’ family will join Murray in the moral-support camp that morning.

“(My family) will probably be in bed asleep,” she chuckled. “How crazy is it that we’re paying to run up and down a road, but it’s just so much fun.”