Clayton State assistant coach and Stockbridge resident Hugh Toro has nearly every Peachtree Road Race T-shirt and several pieces of memorabilia from the 42 times he has been a participant.
hen Hugh Toro first started running the Peachtree Road Race, participants had to run to the race in order to run in the race.
Several things have change since the beginnings of what has developed into one of the country’s most recognizable Fourth of July traditions.
And Toro, a Stockbridge native and assistant track and cross country coach at Clayton State, has been around for nearly all of the 44 runnings of the world’s largest 10K race.
When the 59-year-old Toro competes on Thursday, it will be the 42nd straight time that he has participated in the race, which begins at 7 a.m.
“My very first race, I ran from Fort Gillem to the race because there was no mass transportation system,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of changes in the race.”
Toro first ran in the Peachtree in 1972, and he estimated that race consisted of 200 runners. On Thursday, approximately 60,000 people are expected to participate to receive one of the convenient T-shirts.
“The hardest thing nowadays is getting to the race, and leaving from it,” Toro said.
The coach still has all the T-shirts he has collected from his participation. According to unofficial records, Toro might have run in the second-most Peachtree races.
Unofficial records indicate that Landmark Christian School cross country and track and field coach Bill Thorn has run in every one of the races, beginning in 1970.
“I think that I have about 10 more in me,” said Toro. “Coach (Bill) Thorn tells me I’m the next person behind him and that I got to keep going.”
Since developing tendonitis in his ankle, Toro said his training for the race has slowed. He now runs about three miles about four times a week, and does a lot of swimming at his neighborhood pool.
While the ankle doesn’t bother him as much as it once did, he said finishing the race is his top priority.
“I’m determined to finish it,” he said. “I’ll be there all taped up like a robot cop. It’s all about commitment, determination and loyalty, which is what we try to teach our runners.”
But running wasn’t always Toro’s passion. He didn’t start running seriously until his family moved to Clayton County from Puerto Rico in the early 1970s.
Growing up in a military family, Toro’s family moved to Fort Gillem in 1972, and he wanted to pursue a scholarship in basketball on the college level.
Those plans were changed when he meet one of the captains on base at Fort Gillem, and he encouraged Toro to start running,
“I used to hate running back in Puerto Rico,” he said.
But that quickly changed after walking on at West Georgia before eventually earning a cross country/track scholarship.
Two years ago, he retired from a 32-year teaching career in both the Clayton and Henry county school systems. He coached track and field and cross country at Morrow, Forest Park and Riverdale high schools.
Aside from his regular workout routine, Toro has coached at Clayton State the last 19 seasons.
“Running in the Peachtree is still fun for me, but getting up at 4:15 a.m. is not fun,” Toro said. “I want to go for 10 more years, which would put me at 70. After that, I’ll evaluate where I’m at.”