Sports Legends: Always On The Run
Atlanta’s Gayle Barron won five of the first six Peachtree Road Races
I have heard of falling in love in the classroom, at a dance and even at an opera. But falling in love running the Sanford Stadium steps? Sounds crazy, no?
Well, you have not met one of the world’s great marathon runners – Gayle S. Barron.
Gayle not only caught up to Ben Barron, Jr. on the steps, she married him.
“I didn’t go out to the stadium to find this good-looking blond boy, but when I saw him sprinting up the steps, I knew he was for me.” They were married while students at the Uni-versity of Georgia. “It was the best race I ever won,” Gayle says.
And there were many races she won in her career, like the first Peachtree Road Race back in 1970. In fact, she won five of the first six Peachtrees.
Then there were marathons, 26 in all. First she won three Atlanta Peach Bowl marathons, then she captured the women’s division of the Boston Marathon. Then came the New York City Marathon, where she came in second. There were other marathons all over Europe and the South Pacific.
She won more than 100 trophies and gave most of them away to children with leukemia.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution named her one of the top athletes of the century. She was voted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.
She appeared on the cover of magazines such as Self and Runner’s World.
But she also puts a lot of energy into community and volunteer activities.
She was on the Board of Directors of the American Foundation for the Blind and started the Gayle Barron Track Meet for Visually Impaired Children, which she headed for eight years. She was the volunteer state-wide coach for the Leukemia Society’s Team in Training, training runners to run marathons and to raise funds for children with leukemia. In fact, she has trained more than 12,000 runners.
She started Team Spirit, which raised more than $225,000 for the Aflac Cancer Center, and she headed a team that built four houses for Habitat For Humanity.
Says the legendary track coach, Paul Koshewa, who was a perennial producer of champions at Atlanta’s Westminster Schools, “Gayle would frequently come to Westminster to work out on the track. I could see how dedicated and conscientious she was about running. She never missed a day of running from 10 to 25 miles.
“She was a graceful runner with a beautiful stride. And she never hesitated to share her marathon experience with other athletes. As former president of the Atlanta Track Club, I can tell you that she was an inspiration to everyone.”
Gayle Barron was born in Atlanta and grew up there. She attended Druid Hills High School, where she was a cheerleader and member of the drill team.
She never thought about running until she met Barron on those Sanford Stadium steps when she was 18 years old.
“I wanted to be with Ben. That’s why I started running,” she says. The two were married for 14 years and still run together on the streets of Atlanta. Now in her 60s, Gail no longer runs competitively.
But she has some tips for running indoors when the winter weather arrives: First, she says, you don’t have to workout “tough.” You can use a treadmill as well as the asphalt outside. The big advantage of the treadmill is that it has some “give” and is not as tough on your knees and other joints as harder surfaces.
Second, she advises, find a gym that has TVs so you can be entertained while you are walking or running on the treadmill.
The biggest thrill of Barron’s running career? “Being in a ticker tape parade after winning the Boston Marathon,” she says.