Return of Run the Reagan event enjoys strong turnout

SNELLVILLE - While many Gwinnettians lay asleep in warm beds, nearly 1,500 runners laced up their shoes and joined 330 volunteers at the comeback of the Run the Reagan Race Saturday morning for charity.

Drizzling rain and cold temperatures did not dampen the spirit of those who raced in the 1-mile fun run, 5K, 10K and half marathon races and raised money for Gwinnett Outreach, a Christian church partnership that targets at-risk kids in school.

"I made her come," said Snellville resident Jerry Tillery of his friend from Decatur. "I drug her from inside the perimeter out here."

Tillery ran the half marathon with friend Kelly Reynolds and hit a personal best record.

Reynolds placed second in the half marathon for the 30 to 35 age group and said she would come back next year.

"I liked the course," Reynolds said. "It was a hilly course, but I liked it because I run past people on the hills. It's a good race."

Face-painting booths, large inflatables and various vendors offering warm drinks and food dotted the field just behind the Presidential Marketplace off Scenic Highway and Ronald Reagan Parkway.

Race director Skip Breeser said he organizes 70 races each year and thinks this course is safe, easy to run and beautiful.

"How many roads in metro Atlanta can you run that have no development on them?" He said. "It's awesome. There were competitive people here with great times, and it was a great course."

Previously, the race was run consecutively for a decade but was postponed indefinitely two years ago.

Tom Mayfield, a key organizer of the event, inspired politicians, local businesses and volunteers to give the race another shot and was given the go-ahead last year to begin planning.

Originally held in October, Mayfield changed the event to February because of conflicts with racing schedules and other charity events. After narrowing down dates it was a choice between two weekends in February, and he chose Presidents Day weekend.

"I thought there's no better tie-in than Presidents Day weekend for an event that's called Run the Reagan. We also had it in Presidential Marketplace, another tie-in."

Mayfield plans on promoting the Reagan earlier and has a goal of attracting 10,000 runners, which would place it as the third largest race in Atlanta.

"There's the Peachtree Road Race July 4, the Cobb Labor Day 10K Classic, and Gwinnett needs to have the third biggest race (in Atlanta)," he said.