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Michael Harbin Keeps Decatur on the Run/Walk

He's a fitness enthusiast who helped start Team Decatur.

If you see Michael Harbin around town, he'll probably be wearing his neon green Team Decatur T-shirt.

He's an enthusiastic recruiter for the group that participates in the Kaiser Permanente Corportate Run/Walk 5k and Fitness Program. Decatur has fielded the only city-sponsored team in the downtown Atlanta event that draws thousands of corporate workers.

Team Decatur has grown from 130 people in 2010 to 256 last year. Members walk and run together during the year and develop team spirit. They all wear the bright green T-shirts, too. Harbin hopes to hit 300 participants this year.

"Part of this is to make fitness fun and social," he said. "Some people can't see getting out by themselves and walking."

Harbin, 63, played a major role in getting Team Decatur started, with a nudge from his brother-in-law, former Olympian and local running guru Jeff Galloway.

Harbin said the City Decatur does a lot to encourage fitness. The International City/County Management Association even developed a case study about the city's efforts to encourage walking, running and active living.

"Michael made the personal connections to get it going and keep it going," Galloway said in an email. "This is only the beginning. I believe that the fun events promoted by Team Decatur ... will attract a growing number of folks to change their lifestyle for the better."

Said Cheryl Burnette, assistant director of the city Active Living Department: "He did a lot of work to get Team Decatur going, and is still working on it -- getting new members, spreading the word, not only thinking of ideas but putting them into action."

One of those ideas is the Grand Slam Fitness Challenge, a series of six 5K races in Decatur. Team Decatur residents need to enter four of those events to qualify for Grand Slam status, with the KP Run/Walk the only mandatory event for Team Decatur membership.

Harbin, who grew up in the Decatur area, has been running for years and used to manage the Phidippides running store at Ansley Mall in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He now works for Fiserv, a company that provides technology to the financial world.

He and his wife, Weny, have two children: David, a teacher who coaches the boys junior varsity basketball team, and Joanna, who works for a study abroad company.

He's on the Active Living board and participates in events, even though both his kids have graduated. For years he has run the water stop on Clairemont for the Publix Marathon.

When describing his love of Decatur, Harbin tells the story of a vacant, wooded lot in his Great Lakes neighborhood was put up for sale in the mid-1990s.

He and his neighbors wanted to keep the lot as green space. They went door-to-door, collected $50,000 and turned the land over to the city. During the transaction, he said, "I owned the park for about a day."

Today, that lot at Lucerne, Geneva and Champlain streets is still green and wooded. It's called Gladys Morgan Waddell Park.

"That was another great example of community building," Harbin said. "Somehow there was an idea -- we can do this."

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