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CLINE: First or last, many will just enjoy the race

File Photo. Tom Stratton will be participating in his second Run the Reagan event this year. For many entrants, the event is a great way to get exercise and just enjoy the company with fellow runners.

File Photo. Tom Stratton will be participating in his second Run the Reagan event this year. For many entrants, the event is a great way to get exercise and just enjoy the company with fellow runners.

Tom Stratton doesn’t plan on winning the 10K race at Saturday’s Run the Reagan event. In fact, he wouldn’t be surprised to finish dead last. But that placement isn’t important to the 70-year-old Snellville retiree.

For him, participation is the key. So he’ll enjoy his walk up and down Ronald Reagan Parkway, content to have a good and healthy time rather than a winning one.

“(My) time is not that important,” said Stratton, who is participating in the event for the second time. “Just the goal of doing it — being able to do it.

“It gives me a goal. Races are fun, but they’re not the real reason (I participate) — the real reason is to give me something to shoot for.”

For those who don’t participate in road races, this might sound strange. But once you attend you’ll find there are a lot of Tom Strattons out there, people who like the camaraderie of the event, the exercise and even the free T-shirt that comes with it. For an elite few, finishing first is the goal. For most, just finishing is fine.

Stratton comes by his motivation honestly. Five years ago he had heart bypass surgery and his cardiologist told him the best thing he could do was walk and walk regularly. Those are tough orders not to follow, but Stratton wanted a carrot as well. He wanted a reason to make walking a regular part of his routine.

That’s where the road races came in to play. He’s participated in the Peachtree Road Race four times and even walked a half marathon in Jacksonville Beach, Fla. And those races, like Run the Reagan, gave his daily walks more purpose.

Stratton said he walks an average of three miles every other day, sometimes farther. He lives near the Run the Reagan course, enjoys the route — “it’s not too hilly” — and likes that the event raises money for Young Life and the Gwinnett Community Clinic.

His main wish is that more people would join him in walking the course.

“Potentially, it could be a great race if more people participated,” Stratton said. “I’m not sure people know you can walk it.”

Stratton will be. He’ll be ready on Saturday to take it all in, but he’s not the only one happy with the pursuit.

“I saw my cardiologist a couple of weeks ago and he’s as pleased as he can be,” Stratton said.

E-mail Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/toddcline.