ATLANTA - “It was the first time in my entire life that it felt like the jacket I was wearing fit,” said Julia Emmons.
When Julia Emmons left her tenured position at Emory University in the spring of 1985 to become the race director of the world’s largest 10K, she found her calling. Yes, the job was far from academia, but Peachtree was a cerebral thing. Complicated yet basic at its core. Peachtree was about celebrating the runners, and the city many of them called home.
Emmons was deeply connected to the Peachtree Road Race long before her 22-year reign as director. An avid runner, she served on the Atlanta track club board long before taking its lead role.
“I always wanted to be the first one,” said Emmons. “I’ve always said that.”
Emmons was all about firsts. Her vision helped Peachtree grow exponentially, including a 20,000 runner increase to the field in 1990. She even created overseas versions of Peachtree in Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Baghdad after the Gulf War.
Starting the race by cell phone, standing in the middle of Peachtree road. One of Emmons’ legacies celebrates its 30th anniversary this summer.
“It really is a miniature of Peachtree Road Race, but it sort of distills it’s magical essence even more,” said Emmons.
Peachtree Jr. promotes running for kids. Emmons always said it was a race that you could wrap your arms around. Annually, thousands of young runners go around Piedmont Park, not for trophies, but for fun and fitness.
Try to find a member of the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame more connected to Atlanta. You won’t. Emmons was a city council member from 1997 to 2001, and used her relationships with city leaders each year, to coordinate the massive undertaking of getting as many as 60,000 runners down Peachtree on the 4th of July.
Julia needed the city. But it was always her connection to the runners that made it magical.
“Chill out. Drink enough water, and just take it slowly if it’s a hot day. The runners themselves are the greatest help to us,” said Emmons.
And that’s who Emmons was there to serve, Atlanta’s running communities. Whether it was a Thanksgiving Day marathon or a 3K in Grant Park, Emmons and her track club were there.
“The Track Club and the Peachtree Road Race have meant everything to me, and I am very honored to serve them,” said Emmons.
And the Atlanta Sports Hall of fame is honored to induct Julia Emmons into its 2017 class.
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