Sports Editor Will Hammock
People still stop Marilyn Rushin regularly in public places, say hello and don't address her by her given name.
To many Girl Scouts in the Gwinnett area, she will always be "Mother Nature," the character she played at the long-running Lilburn Girl Scout Day Camp for 28 years.
When the Norcross resident runs the Peachtree Road Race, she assumes another nickname.
"Everybody always says, 'Here she comes. There's Lady Liberty,'" Rushin said. "My crazy outfit I wear gets me a lot of attention and it gets me up the hills."
Rushin has worn her Patriotic attire --a gaudy, Statue of Liberty-esque headband with red, white and blue shorts and shirt --for the past 12 Peachtree Road Races. That seems like a solid streak, but it's not the most impressive for Rushin.
The 68-year-old plans to run her 35th straight Peachtree this Fourth of July, extending a tradition that began with a challenge from her brother, who told her she couldn't do it. His dare was the only motivation she needed.
Once she got going, she stuck with it. That seems to be her theme in life. As she puts it, she likes to see things through, which explains her current 28-year run in the front office at Hopkins Elementary and her 44-year marriage to husband John, who dutifully shuttles his wife to the starting line and picks her up at the finish each year.
Rushin's children Brandon and Tennille, both Meadowcreek grads, are proud of their mother's Peachtree streak and even her grandchildren (she has three) have begun to take notice of Gigi's annual run. Her children like to check on her shortly after the race, but make no mistake, she is prepared.
She rises at 4:30 a.m. every morning to jog with friends and runs year-round, part of the keys to her longevity in the sport. She no longer finishes her 10Ks in under an hour, but she still enjoys them.
"I pray a lot, I try to eat right and I try to exercise," said Rushin, who grew up in Roanoke, Ala., before moving to Georgia to attend Clark-Atlanta.
Prayer is an important part of the routine for Rushin, an active member at Lilburn First Baptist Church who leads a Bible study class. She considers that mental preparation vital, but she knows keeping up the physical portion is equally important as she ages --running keeps her healthy and running keeps her streak going.
The lasting mementos from the past 30 years, every Peachtree T-shirt during that span, are safely tucked into a drawer. One day she hopes to turn them into a Peachtree Road Race quilt.
But she won't do that until she stops running the race. When that happens is anybody's guess.
"I said I was going to stop at 30," Rushin said. "Now it just depends on how long my legs will take me."
Will Hammock can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock. For Hammock's blog, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willsworld.