One of the unique achievements of which I am very proud is…being the first person to cross the finish line in the Peachtree Road Race in 1970. This year, 2011, the race officials have given me a special number that has an “X” on it, placing me at the end of the 60,000 runners. This has inspired a number of thoughts and emotions. The bottom line is that I’m OK with starting behind the crowd.
There weren’t many runners in 1970. Most of the fast runners I spoke with about the race didn’t want to run in the heat, on a hilly 10K course. So among the 110 who started that year, I happened to be the fastest. Two years later I chose another race instead of Peachtree: the Olympic Trials where I qualified in the 10K for the Munich team.
Over the next 5 years I proudly told runners around the world about Peachtree, inviting them to Atlanta. In 1975-1978 I hosted my friends Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and 4 time Olympic gold medalist Lasse Viren from Finland. With this competitive crowd (and a host of young runners who wanted to beat them), Peachtree was #1 in the world.
As my finish times slowed down, I became less interested in my own competition and more focused on helping others get off the couch with Peachtree as their goal. I must admit that I’ve received more satisfaction from helping over 300,000 make this journey into fitness, than from any of my running accomplishments.
This year, entering Peachtree was done on the lottery concept. Like everyone else, I got online in time, entered my wife Barbara and myself, gave them my credit card info, and waited to see if we were selected. We were!
The great thing about being in the back is that I will be lining up with so many of my “athletes” who have taken the challenge and are ready for the big day. Based upon tens of thousands of reports from other first time Peachtreers, the finishing accomplishment will change their lives for the better.
Barbara and I like to run our races together, at least once a month. My only regret this year is that the officials assigned her a different starting corral than mine.
But we will be celebrating together at our Phidippides Ansley Mall party right after the race. I’m looking forward to it already.
Jeff Galloway, Peachtree back of the packer 2011