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45th consecutive race: An Atlanta man’s longtime running tradition at AJC Peachtree Road Race

No matter the obstacles and injuries over the years, Gates always made it a goal to cross the finish line year after year.

ATLANTA — The AJC Peachtree Road Race attracts thousands of runners every year. For the ones who have come back over the decades, it becomes part of their lifestyle and life story.

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From 1977 to 2021, so much of Greg Gates’ life changed. Except one thing.

“The [AJC] Peachtree Road Race has been the most constant thing in my life for the past 45 years. When I first started running, I was 29 years of age, I was single. In that 45 years, I got married. I had two children. Both of my parents have passed away. So, the race, in that 45 years, has been the most constant thing in my life,” he said.

Gates says he didn’t imagine in the 70’s that this would become a major part in his life story. This is a tradition that he says would help him through manhood.

“Discipline is an important aspect of life. Discipline is deciding what you want to do and doing it. And not letting things distract you from what you want to do,” he said.

No matter the obstacles and injuries over the years, Gates always made it a goal to cross the finish line year after year.

“You got to let your mind control because if you let your mind drift, your body takes over and your body slows you down. Because it’s tired. If you maintain that mental focus, that’s how you maintain focus and do better,” he said.

Gates says he’s now working to preserve those wonderful memories as he starts to document his life story.

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“One of the things I realized after my parents passed away is how little I knew about their early life. My children and my wife don’t even know this, but I’m starting to prepare my early life story. So, just leaving a little legacy behind so if a question comes up in the future, I’ll have the answer for them,” Gates said.

He wants his legacy to stand for two simple things that define a person’s character.

“Hard work and be nice to people. There’s no reason not to be nice to people. I find that once you get to know a person, they are so very nice,” he said.