Meet the (apparent) final finisher of AJC Peachtree Road Race

Glenn Bryant of Gainesville was the apparent final person to cross the finish line at the AJC Peachtree Road Race on July 4, 2021. (AJC photo by Ken Sugiura)
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Glenn Bryant of Gainesville was the apparent final person to cross the finish line at the AJC Peachtree Road Race on July 4, 2021. (AJC photo by Ken Sugiura)

Glenn Bryant used to approach the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race as a competitive outlet, and it was one in which he more than held his own.

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In his younger days, he had sped through the 10-kilometer course in under 40 minutes, running fast enough several years to earn a coveted mug as a top-1,000 finisher.

Sunday, the Gainesville resident was far, far removed from that exalted status. Bryant strolled across the finish line as the apparent final finisher in the day’s field of 18,000.

“It’s so much better this way,” Bryant, 60, said after his finish. “I was stressing myself out for a stupid cup from Niketown. Isn’t that stupid?”

As he approached the line just shy of 11 a.m. on Sunday, volunteers had already begun disassembling the finish-line area. The energy and joy created by the stream of finishers had been long deflated. Only a sliver of 10th Street, which had been closed for the race, was still dedicated to Peachtree runners and walkers. As Bryant approached the finish structure, a race organizer declared Bryant the last person to finish. (Despite the less-than-official pronouncement, it wasn’t clear if there were others still on the course.)

Bryant’s chip time was two hours, 35 minutes and 1 second, a pace of about 25 minutes per mile.

According to the online results, there were 12 finishers who had slower times than Bryant, although they could have reached the finish line before Bryant if they had started much earlier than he had or if they had participated on Saturday, as the Atlanta Track Club held the event over two days as a COVID-19 safety measure.

Regardless, Bryant’s performance was an achievement in its own way. At some point in his trek to Midtown, Bryant said he realized he was at the far back of the pack.

“And then I thought to myself – and this was intentional – I can be around some friends that are runners and go, ‘Have you ever done Peachtree?’” he said. “‘Yes, well, what’s your time? O.K., I was last in 2021. So that’s the reason why I did it.”

Bryant was more than capable of finishing far faster. Bryant said he runs every morning and has run with a 45-pound weighted vest. And then he walks after he finishes his run. But his approach to the Peachtree changed years ago when his father Ray asked if he could join him.

“I’m thinking to myself, he’s going to be so slow,” Bryant said. “But he taught me it’s more about the journey, and it was a real special time. So from that point forward, I’ve just been taking it easy.”

Bryant’s Peachtree experience Sunday reflected his approach. He said that, along the way, he happened upon the parents of a volleyball player whose team had repeatedly vanquished his daughter’s high-school team and struck up a conversation as they traveled to the finish line.

(It wasn’t just any volleyball player. The couple whom Bryant met were Dawn and Buddy Curry, parents of Gabby Curry, the Buford High grad who helped Kentucky to the national championship in April. Gabby is the sister of David Curry, who led Georgia Tech in tackles each of the past two seasons. Buddy Curry played eight seasons for the Falcons, was a two-time All-Pro and is a member of the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame.)

“I mean, not only am I last, but I got to meet Gabby’s parents?” Bryant said. “It’s been a phenomenal day.”

Bryant looks back on his preoccupation with finishing in the top 1,000 and considers it folly. The thousands of Peachtree participants who see the race as a way to celebrate Independence Day, share in a ritual with loved ones and share in an Atlanta tradition might see it similarly.

“I get what I was doing back then,” he said. “It’s much nicer this way.”