For the 60,000 who run, jog or walk in the AJC Peachtree Road Race on July 4 — the vast majority leave in wave groups on and after 7:30 am — it is an exciting, huge annual event. But they do not get to view one of the most remarkable aspects of the race — the Shepherd Center Wheelchair Division, seen mainly by spectators along the route and, of course, the hardy participants themselves.
Race time for wheelchair athletes is 6:45 a.m., well before runners at the front of the pack start. Wheelchair participants follow the official 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) course starting at Lenox Square, down Peachtree Street through Buckhead and Midtown, ending at Tenth Street at Piedmont Park. Last year, 61 wheelchair racers from the United States and seven other countries competed.
The Atlanta Track Club’s partner in the wheelchair division is the renowned Shepherd Center, a not-for-profit hospital founded in 1975 to study and treat patients with traumatic neuromuscular prob-lems. Since the 1982 founding of the wheelchair division, it has led the Peachtree. And when partici-pants, both on wheels and on feet, pass Shepherd at 2020 Peachtree Road not far from Piedmont Hospital, the cheers and thrills are some of the best on the course.
Dr. Paul Hudson, longtime resident of the Brookhaven area and historian at Georgia Perimeter Col-lege, has completed every Peachtree since 1978.