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6/17/2024 by Lori Riley

Running Peachtree with a Purpose: “It’s Kind of a Family Thing Now”

Chris Werner was 20 years old the first time he ran in the AJC Peachtree Road Race.

That was 40 years ago. Werner was in college when his uncle, a member of Atlanta Track Club, said he should come run and he did. And he loved it.

"It was an experience like none other," said Werner, who lives in Canton.

So, he kept doing it. He got his wife, Chrystal, to run (once when she was seven months pregnant). His mom, Marilyn. His late dad, Harry, who was recovering from cancer treatments and had taken up walking with his mom. When Chris and Chrystal's kids came along, they ran, too. It became a family affair.

One year, his nephew Thomas, who was in the military, found out he was coming home for July 4th, but the deadline had passed for entry. Marilyn did a little research and found out he could enter the race via Peachtree with a Purpose, which supports the Atlanta Track Club's Kilometer for Kids program. The free program, for kids in grades K-5, uses running to teach kids about goal setting, healthy habits, respect and community building and last year, 5,000 kids participated in the program.

"That's how we got involved with it," Werner said. "My mom said, 'Well, gosh, if we want to do this, I don't mind making the donations.' So, we started doing it together.

"It's a good organization, gets kids involved, it's tax deductible and we get a pretty good time slot (to run). We've been doing it for several years now."

This year Werner, his 17-year-old son Josiah and 15-year-old daughter Savannah, his mother and his sister Sandra Mathis all signed up for the race through Peachtree with a Purpose. They will all start in Wave C, one of two Kilometer Kids Charity Waves.

Some of their family members who don't run will set up a cheering section near Piedmont Park, and the family members who are running have a friendly competition over who will finish first every year. Josiah is the reigning family champion. Savannah had to run the last few races with her dad, but she wants to see what she can do on her own this year.

"It's kind of a family thing now," Werner said. "We just enjoy it."

Werner estimates he's run the race 33 times. He has a stack of race T-shirts he plans to make into blankets.

"It hurt me those years I wasn't able to run, I'd miss it so much," he said. "I'm trying to see how many I can get done before I can't run anymore."

And if anyone asks him about the race, he tells them about Peachtree with a Purpose.

"I always say, 'Look, if you're into making donations or doing some kind of charitable things, look into this,'" he said. "If you're going to run the Peachtree - this is just a cool thing to do."

Registration for the 55th Running of the AJC Peachtree Road Race is still available by running Peachtree with a Purpose in one of the Kilometer Kids Charity Waves. For more information and to register, click here. Registration is open until June 24 or until the spots are sold out, whichever comes first.