Stars and Stripes are everywhere at world’s largest 10K run

Published 6:50 pm Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Greg Lohman and his son, Austin, planned to stick together through the world’s largest 10K road race — literally, for each had painted himself from head to sneakers in half the colors of the U.S. flag.

Austin, 20, and his 51-year-old father from Jackonsville, Fla., have been running the Peachtree Road Race for the last three years. This Tuesday, they spent about an hour each body painting themselves, Austin in stripes, Greg in the stars.

Austin, who just came back from boot camp for the Air Force, said it was a great way to celebrate the country he plans to defend.

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For another 20-year-old, Gerard Carson, body painting himself with the flag was a way to “dress up” for the Fourth of July.

“I just hope it doesn’t run,” he said, glancing at his blue torso and red and white legs as a large red sun rose above the start line.

Carson and the Lohmans were far from alone in showing off patriotic fervor on the muggy morning, when 55,000 runners braved 75 degree heat and 78 percent humidity at the race’s start time of 7:30 a.m.

From the immense U.S. flag suspended over the start line to tiny ones taped over sports bras and sticking from baseball caps, the Stars and Stripes were everywhere.

“In 1972, it was the only one, but now they’ve caught on,” said Paul Thompson, 51, who has run 17 races since then holding the same, slightly discolored foot-long flag.

Michael Swift, a 27-year-old from Atlanta, had to keep switching hands and lean forward against the few gusts of wind to hold on to his 6-foot-long flag during his 48-minute race.

“It’s more fun than just running,” he said, sweat pouring from under his flag bandanna. “It’s fun to get cheered on by everybody.”

A couple of women in their 80s, dressed in patriotic garb from head to toe, including a Statue of Liberty crown, cheered on Randi Stillman, who was running her first race as a fundraiser for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Stillman was planning to celebrate her one-hour finish with another Fourth of July tradition — ice-cold beer. She had seen runners gulping down “huge plastic cups of beer” less than a mile into the run, she said.

Martin Lel of Kenya dominated his competition to win the race and Lornah Kiplagat of the Netherlands won the women’s division of the for the fifth time.

Lel sprinted away from the lead group of five runners in the fourth mile of the 6.2-mile race and won with a time of 27 minutes 25 seconds. With less than a half mile left in the race, Kiplagat gave a quick burst of speed to overtake rival Jemima Jelagat of Kenya for the women’s division win with a two-second advantage in 31:13.

Kiplagat moved to the Netherlands from Kenya in 2003.

Krige Schabort of the U.S., who won in 2002 and 2003, won the men’s wheelchair portion of the Peachtree Road Race. Edith Hunkeler of Switzerland won the women’s wheelchair division in the Peachtree Road Race for the second straight year.

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