Stuart Dailey spent Monday night the same way he has for the past 19 years. His wife, Tonya, made him pasta for dinner — spaghetti to be exact.
And Tuesday morning began the same way it has for the past 30 years. Dailey, a deputy with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, woke up around 4:30 a.m., drove to the Lenox Square Marta Station where he parked his truck and met up with fellow sheriff, Keith Langford.
From there, they headed to the 2017 AJC Peachtree Road Race starting line.
“That’s one thing always constant in my life,” Dailey said. “I know I’m always going to run the Peachtree every year.”
It has become quite the tradition for Dailey to run in the race. At 15 years old, after growing up running track at West Hall and taking part in a 5-kilometer race in Gainesville, Dailey asked his mom to take him to Atlanta for the Peachtree Road Race.
Now, 30 years later, Dailey joins more than 60,000 others as he races for the 30th consecutive year.
The first few years he raced, he focused on improving his previous time. But as the years went by, Dailey has been more focused on simply continuing the tradition and enjoying the experience. He says it’s unlike anything else, and he enjoys slowing down sometimes to take in more of that experience.
“I just really enjoy the whole race,” Dailey said. “It’s basically a six-mile party. It’s crazy.”
The entire experience hasn’t always been enjoyable, though.
When Stuart and Tonya first married, runners had to apply through the mail with an application in the newspaper. One year, while waiting to board a plane to Cancun at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, they were left scrambling to find a newspaper, fill out the application, put it in an envelope, get it postmarked and have it mailed before they left the country.
“I mean, here we are going on a vacation, but we’ve got to get the Peachtree application in,” said Tonya, who has been married to Stuart for 19 years.
Luckily, that process has gotten easier over time as it is all done online now. But making it to the race still isn’t always easy.
The Fourth of July is always a busy day for the sheriff’s office, and Dailey is often scheduled to work. Just last year he had to find someone to cover the first part of his shift while he ran the race. He ended up taking a shower at the precinct afterward in order to finish the rest of his shift.
“Getting off on the Fourth of July hasn’t always been the easiest thing to pull off,” said Dailey, who has been with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office for 22 years. “So I’ve had to do some interesting things as far as swapping with people or getting people to cover for me.”
Despite the difficulty, Dailey never let anything stop him from getting to the Peachtree Road Race since he first ran it at age 15. He loves to be outside and tries to train as much as he can. Even when he hasn’t been running much, he signs up for the race.
Around where Dailey lives, he’s known as “that cop that runs around the neighborhood.”
But running around the neighborhood just isn’t the same as running this Peachtree Road Race course. Although Dailey has a couple different routes he trains on to prepare, the atmosphere just can’t be matched.
“You hear the pounding of the feet on the pavement, the sound of the news helicopters, you hear the announcers’ voices, the cowbells and crowd cheering,” Tonya said.
“So there’s a distinct sound to it that you never forget.”
Dailey will never forget it either. He has each shirt from the races over the years tucked away in a box at his home, neatly folded with that year’s number. He will continue to add to the box each time he runs the Peachtree Road Race, which he hopes won’t end anytime soon.
As this year’s race ends, though, Stuart will wave as he passes his wife and mother-in-law, Doris Parks. He’ll cross the finish line, grab a T-shirt and enjoy a fresh peach as he celebrates his 30th consecutive Peachtree Road Race.
“If I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t know what to do on the fourth,” Dailey said.