Some runners are motivated by a desire to record personal-best times in every race they complete. Others are inspired by the idea that their favorite snacks are waiting just beyond the finish line.
Lamar Perlis is unfazed by either of these things. He keeps moving to avoid an imaginary street sweeper.
“I picture this enormous street sweeper at the end of the race,” he said. “I just keep thinking to myself, ‘Lamar, just stay well ahead of that street sweeper.’ That’s going to be constantly on my mind. I don’t care how fast I run as long as it’s faster than that street sweeper.”
At 93, Perlis may not be the fastest participant, but he is the oldest male competitor running Wednesday in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race. He won the 90-120 division in 2016, finished second last year and will try to reclaim his title this Fourth of July.
Perlis is a week shy of being the oldest runner to take on the 10K. He was born Sept. 14, 1924, seven days after Betty Lindberg, which makes her the most senior participant on the course.
But age isn’t the number Perlis is concerned with. He’s focusing on the 6.2 miles he’ll have to trek to cross the finish line for the 26th time.
“I’m going to shuffle the Peachtree. I’m not going to run it,” he said. “I’ll just have fun. People look at you, and they see you’re not a youngster anymore. You don’t run so brisk. … You get a lot of attention because of your age. A lot of cheering. ‘Keep it up, keep going, you got it.’ As you get nearer the end, you let it all out.”
There was a time when Perlis could run a mile in around seven minutes. He took up running in 1972 when a roommate tossed him a pair of shorts and announced they were going jogging. As years passed, he’s slowed his pace. Last year was the first time he walked part of the race, and he predicted he will finish this year with a time close to the 2:05:11 he recorded in 2017.
Crossing the finish line at any time is no easy feat. Perlis prepares for the Peachtree by training in his hometown of Cordele. His house is one-third of a mile from the nearest paved road, and he uses this as a practice route, going back and forth until he reaches his desired mileage for the day.
Over the years, family members and friends joined Perlis for the 10K. He learned of the race from his daughter, Deborah Berger, who previously ran with her father, and recently was joined by his great niece, Stacy Perlis. Perlis’ most consistent running partner and close friend, Dr. Peter Donnan, will be by his side again this year.
While “the enthusiasm is still there,” and Perlis feels the Peachtree is “a great way to stay healthy,” he anticipates that this Fourth of July will be the last time he attempts the 10K. However, nothing will stop him from giving it a shot this year, as he’s determined to reach his favorite part of the race: receiving the coveted Peachtree Road Race T-shirt. Perlis claims he has “more than (he) can count” but still looks forward to picking up his 26th shirt at the finish line.
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