The streak was almost over before it began.
Young and recently engaged, Terry Farmer decided to run his first Peachtree Road Race in 1980 as a way to stay in shape. Then his fiancee's house burned, destroying both of their numbers in the process. Fortunately the Atlanta Track Club believed Farmer's story, so he picked up replacement numbers.
Thus, it began. The longtime Lawrenceville resident hasn't missed the annual July 4 race in downtown Atlanta since, leading up to Saturday's personal milestone - his 30th straight Peachtree.
"I turned 30 (in 1980) and decided I wanted to do it," said Farmer, a 1968 North Gwinnett grad who didn't pick up running until years after high school. "I ran it that year and just kept on running it."
The hurdle before his first Peachtree wasn't the only one to threaten his streak. In the mid-80s, he missed getting a number in the race's lottery. At the last minute, a friend sprained an ankle and gave up his number.
That good fortune, along with remaining relatively injury-free, has helped Farmer's long-running streak. Like many area residents, he won't miss the Peachtree. The Atlanta Track Club's marquee event, part-race and part-party, is a tradition for thousands.
The race itself features some of the world's top runners in the front, followed by walkers, strollers and casual runners at the end. The headlines go to the Kenyan who wins the race, but so many others enjoy the day for the experience and the spectacle, not the thrill of competition.
Those runners are like Farmer, who completed the 10K course in 45 to 46 minutes in the 1980s, but said he would settle for anything around an hour this year. But the time isn't all that important, it's about tradition now.
His son Matt, a Central Gwinnett grad, ran the race 10 times and his daughter Sarah, also a Central grad, ran it twice. That's in addition to his wife Betsy's 23.
"We've got 50 or so Peachtree shirts around here somewhere," Farmer said.
That number will grow by one this year. And it likely won't end there. Neither will the family's post-race, low country boil at their Lawrenceville home.
"As long as I'm able, I'll run the Peachtree," the 59-year-old said. "Barring injury, I'll keep doing it. That's what we do on the Fourth of July."
Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Thursdays.