by: WSBTV.com Updated:
DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - To some, she's mom. For others, she's a wife, teacher, friend, grandmother and coach. But something everyone can call the 66-year-old Georgia native is: Inspiring.
Retired DeKalb County schoolteacher and coach Margie Bowen had dozens cheering her on as she climbed Stone Mountain for her 300th time -- in 2016 alone.
On Dec. 30 at 10:30 a.m., Bowen set out to climb the iconic 825-foot Georgia mountain, amazing those all around her.
"Margie is an example of determination at 66 years of age, climbing the mountain almost every day despite of what life puts in her way," said Bowen's son-in-law, Benito Ferro.
Some who hiked along with Bowen knew her, and some didn't. Some were in shape, and for others, the hike was extremely difficult to accomplish. Some worked out often, and some dreaded working out and were just there for moral support.
But Bowen said that everyone involved has been "the wind beneath her wings."
""I am so motivated by everyone and am just so blessed," Bowen told WSB. "Thank you all so much. You keep me going."
Even those who couldn't attend sent messages, texts and calls with words of encouragement, which meant the absolute world to Bowen, inspiring her even more than she says they could ever know.
"These friends who took the time out of their day to come and 'show up' were huge in cheering on and celebrating my mom," daughter Lauren Train said.
But Bowen's incredible relationship with Stone Mountain didn't just start now.
Bowen tells Richardson that she has climbed Stone Mountain since she was just 4 years old, but has only recently started counting her climbs and setting goals for them.
It all started when Bowen said school was coming to an end on May 26, 2010, and she began to wonder, "What am I going to do without my students?'"
Almost forgetting that Stone Mountain was right in her back yard, she decided to reunite with it after many years.
Not only was this a place where she felt comfortable, as the outdoors has always been her place of worship, but it was a place that had sentimental value. More than 30 years ago, Bowen's high school sweetheart, Dale Bowen, proposed to her on that very mountain.
"Whether I'm listening to music or praying while climbing, this is the place that makes me happiest," Bowen said.
Telling her students and daughters all about her endeavor back in 2010, she began setting goals for herself, as she loved a good game.
Bowen told herself she would climb the mountain 20 times that summer. She ended up climbing Stone Mountain 100 times.
That's when Bowen says the thrill of the game started getting really fun.
Bowen's daughter, Kristin Ferro, and Kristin's husband, Benito, came up with the idea back in 2013 of making the event a social media gathering. They partnered with #weloveatl, an Instagram community that brings Atlanta residents together to tell the city's stories through photography.
From 2010 to the end of 2013, Bowen had climbed Stone Mountain 500 times.
What's even more remarkable about Bowen's journey is that she suffers from degenerative arthritis, and her body hurts sometimes, so she has worried about continuing on, but reminds herself of a very important lesson she taught her gymnasts at Clarkston High School.
"You can't say can't," Bowen said. "Don't own your excuses, but do remember to make your goals doable and flexible."
"She's just putting one foot in front of the other," Kristin Ferro said. "I am so proud of her."
As of Saturday, Bowen's cumulative total is 861 climbs on Stone Mountain.
Her goal for 2017? To reach 1,000.
"If I achieve that goal before that time, then it'll be a party!" Bowen laughed.
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