Brown, 86, completes Peachtree Road Race

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

For Joyce Brown, staying active now helps to ensure that she’ll be around to do so for years to come.

“If you don’t move around, you can’t move around,” says Brown, 86. “I could sit in the chair all day long, and who would care? But I’m not going to do it.”

Joyce Brown and a fan at the annual Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta. Special photo

Brown laced up her walking shoes to take part in Atlanta’s annual Peachtree Road Race on July 4. She completed the race in two hours and 46 minutes, and was one of only four women over age 85 to finish the race.

Brown moved to McDonough in 1994, and has maintained a hobby of walking every day for years. She was a stay-at-home mom until after her children were grown, and walked every day “for health reasons” with her husband, Al, until his passing in 2015.

Brown said she didn’t give the Peachtree Road Race much thought until her son, Keith, approached her with the idea.

“He’s actually the one who decided it might be fun, so he signed me up,” she said. “It just came as a surprise to me. I never had even considered it or thought about it before, never. I try to go walk on trails about four or five miles a week. I really didn’t do a lot of preparing except about five miles a week to keep my body going.”

Brown estimates that on the day of the race, she actually walked a lot more than the 6.2-mile route when factoring in the trek to and from the MARTA station at Lenox. The self-described “people person” enjoyed interacting with other participants in the race, including runners and her fellow walkers to cross one more item off her “bucket list.”

“I just put on my tennis shoes, and walked about 10 miles that day,” she recalled. “All day long, I saw all those people and I didn’t see anybody I knew. But they were friendly strangers, and I enjoyed it. It was just a fun day. It wasn’t like work. There were so many people participating, but everyone was so cordial. Everybody was just in agreement for the whole day. Everybody was there for the same purpose, to have fun.”

Keith Brown, 54, of Riverdale has taken part in the road race for the last four years. He said he had planned to do it three other times before then, but that he “chickened out” before those races began.

He said he was proud of his mom for finishing the race.

“I never did try to talk her out of it, because I felt like she knew was capable of doing it,” Keith Brown said. “I just said, ‘we’ll go as far as we can, and if we don’t make it, we don’t make it. She did good the whole way. She never said she needed to stop. She never really asked for a break or anything. I was surprised on one on hand, but on the other hand, knowing my mom, she’s pretty solid.”

Keith Brown said he and his mom stopped at every mile marker along the race route to take photos for family and friends. As for whether his mother will take part in next year’s race, Keith Brown said the door is still open.

“My mom didn’t say she didn’t want to do it again,” he said. “She didn’t say a word, so that indicated to me that she would try it again.”

Joyce Brown said she has “never been a runner,” but that she is happy with what she accomplished in the race.

“It was a challenge, but I just walked, and it was fun,” she said. “Everybody told me they were proud of me, but I was proud of myself. In fact, I inspired my daughter, and she said she’s going to do it next year.”