People line up to run in the annual AJC Peachtree Road Race on Wednesday, July 4, 2018. Jenna Eason /

Undeterred by heart attack in 2016, Maggie Joy Stanton back at AJC Peachtree Road Race

Just as the morning sun begins to peek onto the finish line of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race and wheelchair participants stream down 10th Street, one voice towers over the rest.

Two years before, a couple of miles down the road, that same voice of Maggie Joy Stanton was pleading with a police officer to help save her life. 

“I went to the police and said, ‘Can you call 9-1-1?’ He said, ‘I am 9-1-1, what’s your emergency?’ I said, ‘I’m about to die.’ ”

She almost pushed on, but decided “I cannot justify dying for a T-shirt.” They later mailed her one anyway.

Stanton had a heart attack in the heat of the 2016 race and had to be taken to the hospital. She had run the race in 2009 and 2010, but those extra years — and the intense heat in 2016 — had taken a toll on her. Still, that wouldn’t deter Stanton from returning to the course in 2018, this time as a volunteer.

“I like to be a part of it,” she said. “Where are you gonna go that 60,000 people are involved in something?”

With a doctorate in organizational leadership, Stanton especially enjoys encouraging the participants in the early-morning wheelchair race. She said she takes inspiration from watching people with disabilities still strive to achieve their best, and takes pride in being their loudest cheerleader.

Stanton will be in full voice all day. She wants to volunteer until she’s 90 years old. Her enthusiasm encapsulates much of what makes the Peachtree Road Race unique.

As she puts it, “this is Atlanta’s best showing to the world.”

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