Forty-seven years ago, Jack Moore ran down Peachtree Street in the inaugural Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race.
Making sure to watch for oncoming traffic while staying as close to the curb as possible, Moore ran the 10-kilometer race in just more than 38 minutes. In 2017 at the Peachtree Road Race, his target time is a bit extended.
“This year I hope to make it in two hours and 38 minutes,” Moore said
Participating in more than 40 of the 47 races to date, Moore has seen the incredible transformation of a small street-trot founded by former Georgia State cross-country coach Tim Singleton into one of the premier running events in the country.
In previous years, Singleton, who was also the dean of men at GSU, took his runners to a race in Fort Benning.
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“In 1970, I was 26 and working for American Oil Company … attending evening classes at Georgia State University and running on GSU’s cross country team,” Moore said. “(Singleton) told us at a training event that we were running in Atlanta that year. The first PRR was just another race to me at the time because we were running regularly and this would be just running on a different course.”
The first race proved to be just that to Moore — another race. With only 110 participants and very little citywide interest, there didn’t seem to be much to suggest the Peachtree would become something more..
“We did think it was cool that we would run right down Peachtree Street,” Moore said. “We started at the old Sears location at Peachtree and Roswell Road at about 9:30 a.m. Coach Singleton fired his starters pistol and said, ‘Be careful, watch for cars,’ and I vividly remember that it was hot. There were no water stations along the course and we had to stay close to the curb in the right lane.”
While thousands of people now line the streets to watch and support runners, it certainly wasn’t that way in 1970.
“There was not a lot of vibe and emotion for that first race, as it was just another race and we had no idea what it would become,” Moore said. “Other than family and friends of the runners, there were not a lot of spectators. There were people along the race course that thought we were crazy for running down Peachtree.”
It was the year before in Fort Benning that Singleton hatched the idea of holding a July 4 race in Atlanta. On the way home from the event, he had to put the back seat down in his car to fit the huge trophy that one of his runners, Bruce LaBudde, won. Realizing a majority of the participants in the Fort Benning run were from Atlanta anyway, Singleton decided a race may as well be held there.
It cost $25 for a parade permit and four policemen patrolled the race on motorcycles. Participants were charged $2 to run. Most of them were competitive runners instead of the recreational joggers that account for a high percentage now.
Jeff Galloway, who made the U.S. Olympic team in 1972, won the event.
Singleton did acquire a sponsor for the inaugural race — Carling beer. The brewery helped buy trophies for the top 20 runners, along with providing a unique prize at the end.
“Carling Brewery was the sponsor for the race and the first 20 finishers got a case of beer,” said Moore, who resides in McDonough. “I came in 16th and was proud of my prize.”
As the race president, Singleton did a great job at quickly spreading the word and growing the Peachtree. In Year 2, it grew to 198 entries from the original 110. By 1975 — Singleton’s last year in charge — more than 1,000 people ran.
Moore developed a special bond with Singleton during his years at Georgia State.
“My relationship with Mr. Singleton was as a runner, coach and friend,” Moore said. “He was a great guy and as soon as I met him, I felt like I had known him for years. He moved to Houston in the late ’70s and I only saw him occasionally after that — usually at the Original 110 reunions that occurred every five years. The last time I saw him was at the 2009 reunion.”
Singleton died in 2013 at the age of 76.
As the Peachtree Road Race grew, Moore got involved in ways other than just running in the event.
“I started a small trophy shop in Riverdale in 1972,” Moore said. “I furnished the trophies for the ’72, ’73 and ’74 races, before the race got so large and they needed a bigger supplier.”
Now approaching 50 years running, Moore is proud to be a part of history that he shares with a man he called his coach and friend.
“The Peachtree is not just an event, it is a happening and it seems like the whole city participates in it on July 4 every year,” Moore said. “Tim Singleton is the Peachtree Road Race. It is his idea. He organized it, he ran it and he gave the city of Atlanta a great gift.”