AJC Peachtree Road Race runners reflect on freedom, equality for Fourth of July

ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — The AJC Peachtree Road Race, known as the largest 10K race in the world, returned to Atlanta for the Fourth of July. Several runners shared how the race held special meaning for the country during the holiday.

Tens of thousands of runners pounding the pavement in Midtown for the big race. “We had people from all over the U.S. that came out for the race. It’s a great way to celebrate the Fourth of July,” said Alex DiTaranto, a member of the Death Wish Track Club.

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Jetola Anderson-Blair has Jamaican roots and traveled from Houston to participate in the race. She reflected on the meaning of freedom. “The opportunity to do what you want, let people live,” she said.

The holiday reminded Atlanta resident Krystle Andrews of the importance of inclusion, as she hugged a young wheelchair racer. “Freedom. We get to run, we’re lucky. Grateful,” said Andrews.

“It’s absolutely incredible that we live in a country where this is even possible that we can include everybody and use our strengths to help each other,” said Zack Stidham, another Atlanta runner.

“It is amazing just to be out here. Everybody’s included and just having a good time celebrating the freedom that we have,” said Ryan Freesemann, a runner who also lives in the Atlanta area.

Many patriotic runners dressed for the occasion, and military veterans with AMVETS Post 911 cheered them on after they crossed the finish line. It’s clear one AMVETS veteran named Americ Webb was born to serve. “[It’s] spelled just like America without the ‘A’ at the end of it,” he explained. “As a military person that fought for freedom, you see stuff like this come around, people out here just running and giving it their all, and it means a lot.”

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“It’s all about America, baby,” said Ricky Smith, another member of AMVETS 911. “I’m an Army vet, so everything that we do is about unity and oneness.”

In the race for freedom and equality, many would argue America is nowhere near the finish line, but most would agree the race to unite the country is one worth running.

“It’s easy to look around and see evil and bad and differences in opinion, but if you just look a little bit further, I think everybody has a little bit of good in them,” said Adam Heiser, an Atlanta runner. “If you have a difference with somebody, that probably just means you need to spend a little more time with them to see where they’re coming from,” he said.

Whether it’s a physical race or the pursuit of equality and justice, a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. may come to mind. “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward,” he said.

Runners who struggled across the finish line could relate to that quote all too well. However, they understand it’s not always about how you start. It’s about you finish, in a marathon or otherwise. “We’ve come a long way. We’ve still got a long way to go though,” said Webb, regarding the fight for civil rights in America.

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It’s also about getting to a place where we can all cross the finish line as one, by having a relentless hope that change will come.

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