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83 years, 30 races, 1 man
Oxford resident runs yet another Peachtree race
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Peachtree Road Race T-shirts are a badge of honor, a status symbol and a hot commodity since they are given only to those who complete the 10 kilometers on Peachtree Street every July 4.

For Marvin Bowen, they are commonplace.

With enough of the cult-like T-shirts to cover a sofa and love seat in the den of his Oxford home, Bowen wears a few of them with the rest overflowing out of several drawers.

So far, Bowen has collected about 30, one for every year he has run the Peachtree Road Race, every consecutive year. For the past three decades, Bowen rises early and heads to Atlanta to run all 10 kilometers.

The former Southern Bell District Manager plans to continue participating in Atlanta's premier running event, well into his mid-80's.

For more than 50 years, Bowen has been running, and at the age of 83 ran in Wednesday's 10K Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race, finishing in a time of 1:59:56.

For Bowen, who started running at a 6-to-8-minute mile in 10Ks, his current 12-minute pace is more than a step slower than earlier in his lengthy running career, but it's still impressive.

This year's pace wasn't the only change, as Bowen opted to arrive in Atlanta the day before the race rather than leave his house after waking up at 4:30 a.m. on July 4. But those slight changes pale in comparison to the changes to the South's biggest road race over the last 30 years.

"It's grown a lot," Bowen said. "When they first started, there was maybe 2,000 or 3,000. (Wednesday, there was around 60,000.) There are now people watching all the way from Lenox, which is the starting point to Piedmont Park, lining both sides of the streets all the way, along with several radio stations, TV stations and a lot of musicians set up in front of restaurants and what not."

There were nowhere near that many people watching when Bowen first decided to try the race, hosted by the Atlanta Track Club. Bowen joined the club after arriving in Atlanta in 1970, coincidentally the first year of the Peachtree Road Race.

Before he arrived in Atlanta with Southern Bell, Bowen lived in Albany where he discovered the sport that would remain his love affair well into the new century.

In 1958, Bowen joined the newly built YMCA, which featured a rubberized track, a block from his suburban neighborhood.

"They had a guy in from Chicago, Ill., I'll remember it for as long as I live. He spoke to us about the importance of getting our blood pressure down, and pressurizing your blood vessels and it sold me.

"I said running and exercise is going to be my sport. That's what started it and I've been doing it and have always done it, and I'll be running, Lord willing, next year."

He then moved to Conyers in 1980 where he lived until 1996. Since then, Bowen has been living in his Oxford home for the last 13 years, retiring when Bell South became AT&T.

While living in the area, Bowen has ran in multiple events including the Fuzz Run in Covington, half marathons, the Run Around The Mountain at Stone Mountain Park. Now his races are more limited, but he still runs three times a week around the back roads of Oxford and Newton County.

"Since I live about a mile from the horse park the way the crow flies, and I usually run down the four-lane road," Bowen said.

Bowen is planning on running in September's Fuzz Run and will continue to prepare for even more Peachtree Road Races.

"I love it, that's my favorite past time," Bowen said.