Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Kevin Powell, 61, of Norcross plans to run in his 36th consecutive 10K Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta on Wednesday. In the background is a display of Powell's collection of the previous 35 Peachtree Road Race t-shirts from 1977-2011.
Kevin Powell moved to Atlanta nearly 40 years ago.
After a couple of years in the Peach State he heard about a yearly road race on the Fourth of July that was still in its early stages.
Powell decided to run the race with a friend and more than three decades later it has become a yearly tradition.
Powell, a Norcross resident, will run in his 36th consecutive Peachtree Road Race this morning in Atlanta.
"I heard about the race and I said I'm going to run this thing, thinking I would maybe run it once or twice," Powell said. "Then after I ran it once, it kind of got carried away."
The Atlanta Track Club, which hosts the race, doesn't have official records of who has run the most races or most consecutive races. However, Powell's streak is certainly impressive considering he's run 35 of the last 42 Peachtree Road Races.
"That's what I pride myself on, the consecutive nature of what I've been doing," Powell said.
The 43rd annual Peachtree Road Race is a 10 kilometer run (6.2 miles) through Atlanta beginning at Lenox Mall and ending at Piedmont Park. The race features 60,000 participants and is the world's largest 10K road race.
"I just like it because it's such a diversity of every walk of life that you can think of," Powell said. "To me, it's all about maintaing your good health."
Powell, 61, was a cross country runner in high school and for his college fraternity at Oswego State in upstate New York.
The retired IBM worker, who now sells promotional apparel products, was introduced to the Peachtree by a friend.
They ran it together back in 1977 and the following year they had about a dozen friends doing the race. Over the years, Powell has run the race with his sister Maureen and brother Mike, who died of cancer in 2010. His wife Janet meets the group every year at Piedmont Park with a cooler full of water and beer.
"My hat is off to my wife. She is very supportive," Powell said.
Powell's group of running buddies has shrunk to five in recent years. They met again on Monday for the yearly spaghetti dinner at Powell's house. Two of his friends -- Ron Starker and Tim Hanofee -- are right behind him in consecutive races run with 34.
"I think it was the family support, the friends joining, that's what kept me going," Powell said.
Like any long streak, Powell has had some scares along the way. In 1996, his brother Mike came down to visit and they went to Lake Lanier. Powell got a virus and a fever. He still ran the Peachtree that year ill, but went straight home after the race and to bed for two days.
"I could not break my streak even though I was sick," Powell said.
He's also had some small injuries over the years. The most severe was knee surgery in January 2004. He had the surgery early in the year, so he would have time to recover in time for the race.
Over the years, Powell's race times have varied. His fastest time was 44 minutes and his slowest was 69. However, his daughter Jessica takes the blame for the poor time. She didn't properly train and made Powell walk part of the race with her.
"I take pride in never having to walk during the race," Powell said.
Powell's goal is to beat his age in time, so he's going for a sub-61 minute race today.
His training is nothing too extensive. A couple of months he'll do some running on hills to prepare for the race. He enjoys a nice cold beer and to manage the beers he keeps a running log. For every mile he runs during the year, he allows himself one beer. He usually runs about 750 miles a year.
"I always try to keep the miles ahead of the beers," he said with a laugh. "That's important."
Powell's first Peachtree Road Race was just something to do one year. He never imagined it would grow into 35 years of the annual event. But he has no intentions of stopping anytime soon.
"It was just gradual. Once I hit about 10 or 15, then I kept thinking it would sure be great to hit 20. Then 25 was in my sights, then 30," Powell said. "My sight is on doing 50 consecutive. I will be 75 years old. I've got 14 more, God willing."