by Wyndi Kappes
On July 4, Bill Thorn and thousands of Atlantans will start their day with the same goal in mind—to finish the AJC Peachtree Road Race. The only difference? This will not only be the 50th anniversary of the race, but also Thorn’s 50th time running it.
The 88-year-old has not missed a single race since its inception in 1969.
This grandfather has battled traffic, sprained ankles, prostate cancer and more, but year after year he has shown up and crossed the finish line of the world’s largest 10K. The age-proof athlete gives us his insight about the race and his routine.
What are some of your favorite AJC Peachtree Road Race memories?
I remember all the way back to that first race when there were no T-shirts and they didn’t even clear the roads. I was running with my two sons, Bill Thorn Jr. and Terry Thorn, who were 10 and 6 years old at the time, in the smog of the passing vehicles! It was a mess, but I am happy that we were part of the original 110 participants who finished. By the third year, the race had grown and the roads were closed off. We used to race past Rich’s and Davison’s [department stores] and finished down the hill across from the [former] Equitable Life Insurance building on Peachtree Street where there was a nice fountain in the front. On that hot July day, we would all jump in and cool off—a relaxing end to the race. Nowadays, I just love being a part of the event and crossing the finish line. Longevity has always been important to me and I have made it my mission to start and finish each year. I am proud to have done that for nearly 50 years now—that’s over 300 miles covered!
What do you like about the Peachtree in particular?
I look forward to the routine. I get up early and do a stretching sequence followed by eating something protein-rich or having a juice drink. The whole family then drives to a MARTA station and we ride the train up to Lenox Square mall before walking to the starting line. The Atlanta Track Club puts me up in the first start wave every year, which is great and I usually get to say a few words on the stage after the race. Then, my family and I head home and have a cookout. My favorite post-victory meal is a hamburger (without the bun) with pickles and onions.
What’s your secret to staying healthy?
I am intentional about working out every day, sticking to my morning routine, and doing the best for my body. When it comes to my diet, I don’t eat anything specifically organic but I also don’t go berserk. I generally stay pretty consistent with what I eat week to week. Each morning, it is either half of a grapefruit and a bowl of cereal with rice milk, or half of a bagel or some type of muffin with coffee or herbal tea. As for dinner, we are big into home-cooked vegetables. At least once a week we will have wild salmon, asparagus, and baked potato. I stick to water or a natural drink, like grape juice. It’s not all healthy though—I love indulging in Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups occasionally.
Who helps you be your Best Self?
My family. I have four kids and a wonderful wife, Patty Thorn, whom I have been married to for 64 years. I couldn’t ask for anything more from them. They support me so well, from getting me to the race and cheering me on to doing it with me. My granddaughter, Kenzie Bayman, who has run it with me for 14 years, even helped me cross the finish line a few years ago when I had some problems with my balance. Race attendees were motioning me off the course but my granddaughter knew how important it was to me to finish the race and encouraged me as we completed the last leg together. Without my family, none of this would be possible.
To learn more about the AJC Peachtree Road Race and its 50th anniversary, visit AtlantaTrackClub.org/Peachtree