For some, the intense heat at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race is overwhelming.
For Jonny Buice, Douglas Kerns, Christian Baker and the other firefighters who finished the race in full gear Wednesday, it’s more of the same.
“We prepare to run it in the heat,” Baker said. “It is what it is.”
Striding past the finish line with American flags slung over their shoulders, the firefighters serve as local celebrities. People stop them for pictures, media swarms, peers stop to shake their hands.
But this is no ego trip. Kerns, Buice and the rest are there to champion a cause they feel passionately about.
“The No. 1 cause of death among firefighters is heart attack,” Buice said. “Firefighters don’t die from being pectorally challenged. They die from heart attack. That’s the stats, they know it. But, for whatever reason, it’s not targeted by upper-level administration.”
Fitness programs are not mandatory for firefighters in many Georgia counties, he notes, instead often left up to individual discretion.
Participating firefighters included people from Hall County, Dalton County, Douglas County, City of Atlanta, Cherokee County, and others.
From there, the group departs back into the sea of people and on to Piedmont Park. They will continue to attract attention all day. They want to use that to amplify their push for firefighter fitness.
“It’s an honor,” Kerns said, of the attention. “In my opinion, we’re not heroes. We just found a profession that we love to do, and we’re out here doing it, and we promote it.”