Helen and Rick Gordon have collected T-shirts from nearly every single Road Race since 1976, except for the early years. When she was single, Helen and a few of her friends from the neighborhood would run the Road Race. Back then, it was only 1,000 runners. "I didn't get a T-shirt because only the first 300 runners got a shirt," said Helen, ruefully. "Now all the runners get T-shirts."
You could even say the Gordon family wouldn't exist if it hadn't been for their love of running. One day while jogging at the old track at Emory, Helen and Rick stumbled upon each other. They became inseparable and decided to go back to the place they met to marry. The two not only sealed their marriage at the track but started a running tradition for their family.
When their daughter and son, Julie and Michael, were old enough, the Gordons began racing as a family. "The kids ran the Peachtree Junior and were really excited. We stayed in Atlanta to hear all of the sounds of the race," recalled Helen. "We had an older friend who lived on Orme Circle that faces Piedmont Park, and we would all meet at "Ruth's." Then we would shuttle back to our hotel room at Lenox Square, shower, and meet Ruth and other neighbors to go out for a huge brunch. We would all wear our Peachtree shirts and feel so proud."
The Jackson family has also made the Peachtree race a family tradition since 2004. Jerry Jackson's 12-year-old son Jermel joined him last year in the Road Race. "I have a passion for running," said Jerry. "When I was in grade school, I played sports and ran and in 1979 while in the military I ran."
Jerry said his son won his first race at 8-years-old and continued running with the Powder Springs Road race. "When Jermel got old enough and he knew he could handle the 6.2 mile Peachtree Road race, he joined me," said Jerry. "My wife doesn't run but I enjoy that she cheers us on along the way."
"The encouragement along the way is tremendous," said Helen.
The Peachtree Race is more than just a race for both families. Jerry said it's a great way to spend time with his son. For Helen, "It was a good way to get together and to see old friends." They both anticipate the goal of getting in shape before the fourth of July as a family. "The incentive was staying in shape and staying together," said Helen.
This year, though, the 27-year-old and 24-year-old Gordon children will go ahead of them as they walk. Helen's greatest desire is to break her time.
"Times change and we grow old, but the tradition of running the Peachtree Road Race is a tough habit to break," she said. "There is no better feeling than running in the same direction with 55,000 people who are struggling, encouraging others, laughing and carrying on, but are all courteous and determined... We know of no better way to celebrate our freedom and the joy of being an American."