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Local runners ready for the 39th annual Peachtree
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Listen to North Hall's Nolan Clark talk about running his eighth Peachtree Road Race this year.

Wes Wessely most enjoys the human interaction of the Peachtree Road Race. It’s a homecoming type of event, where the 30-year veteran of the Peachtree reunites with some runners he sees only once a year.

He’s been a staple at the Independence Day race in downtown Atlanta since 1976, only missing the 10-kilometer run against some of the world’s elite runners twice in that time period. And even at 60, Wessely still has big expectations.

"My goal is to finish first in my age group of 60-65 year olds," the Clermont resident said.

The two-time Atlanta Marathon winner trains vigorously for the 20-25 road races he competes in each year. He said the Peachtree ranks near the top for its atmosphere, the celebrations afterward and simply the chance to celebrate America’s birthday.

Wessely, the president of the Lanier Running Club, has a goal to finish in the 40-minute range in the newly routed race, which has a new finish as a result of the recent drought’s toll on Piedmont Park.

"The Peachtree can be tough at times with the uphill portions, but I’m very used to the hills living in North Hall," Wessely said. "The Peachtree is more about fighting the masses and the weather."

Wessely doesn’t let his age get in the way of his training. He runs at least 50 miles each week and bikes between 75-100 miles. His longest run each week takes place on Sunday when he goes 10-14 miles.

"There’s not much in North Hall I haven’t touched yet," added Wessely, who moved to Clermont from Lilburn four years ago.

The retired Delta employee, who founded the Delta Dusters club for fellow runners in the company, said he has no plans of slowing down any time soon.

But running for Wessely has taken on a new meaning now that he has more time on his hands. He wants to pass the torch for running enthusiasts as a volunteer coach with Chestatee and North Hall high schools.

During the fall, he trains the 30 members of the War Eagles cross country team. He also worked in the 2006-07 school year with accomplished North Hall runners Nick Long and Morgan VanGorder, both of whom are headed to the University of Georgia to run in the fall.

Rising North Hall senior Nolan Clark has worked with Wessely and Lanier Running Club vice president Art DaCosta to formulate a running plan to maximize his workouts. Clark was the first high school finisher in the 2007 Peachtree (34 minutes, 20 seconds) and placed 96th overall.

This year, Clark, running in his eighth Peachtree Road Race, is aiming for a finish in the top 80. With such a thick pack at the front of the race, his plan is to stay with the flow early until the leaders clear out into a snake formation.

"This race is my bread-and-butter," Clark said. "The Peachtree is long enough to where it is comfortable and it’s not a sprint."

Following the Trojans track and field season, Clark’s summer running schedule never stopped. He transitioned into a schedule formulated by DaCosta, in which he runs around 70 miles each week.

The returning leader of the North Hall boys cross country squad, Clark recently finished first in the Possum Trot 10K (34:37) on June 21 in Roswell.

"I train up for the Peachtree Road Race," Clark said.

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