ATLANTA — CJ Stewart was born and raised in Atlanta but never saw himself being part of the city's 53-year AJC Peachtree Road Race tradition. He never thought he'd be a runner.
"I saw running as a white thing to do. I didn't see African Americans in my community jogging," he said.
Life changed his course.
He started to run during the coronavirus pandemic and after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery was gunned down while jogging in a south Georgia neighborhood in 2020.
"Leaning into running was what I needed for my mental health," he said.
Stewart said he is now an avid runner, calling the activity a lifelong pursuit. He and his wife, Kelli, founded and run a non-profit youth development program.
"It uses the sport of baseball to help Black boys overcome three curve balls: poverty, crime and racism," she said.
Stewart asks the players to use the commitment and discipline they have learned through baseball to take on a new challenge.
Together, they'll run this year's AJC Peachtree Road Race 10K.
"It's a city where many boys, especially dark skin teenage boys are seen as threats, he said. "Doing something like the road race gives them a needed opportunity. It helps give them the benefit of the doubt, builds respect and trust."