Lowell woman racewalks to medals in Brazil

LOWELL, Ohio – Racewalker Donna Graham has returned home from Brazil with three medals and plenty of stories.

Graham, 64, of Lowell won a silver medal in the individual 20K (about 13 miles) racewalk and was part of a three-person U.S. racewalking team that won a gold medal in the 20K in its 60-64 age group and a bronze medal in the 10K walk.

The medals came from the 2013 World Masters Track and Field Championships in Porto Alegre, Brazil, from Oct.16-27.

The silver medal was the first individual medal Graham has won at an international competition.

Although she did not receive a medal, Graham was pleased to finish fifth in the 5K racewalk in the 60-64 age group with a time of 32 minuties and 52 seconds.

“My goal was to finish in the top five and under 33:00, so that was accomplished,” Graham said.

This was Graham’s third international racewalking competition. She calls the World Masters the Olympics for old people, even though a person as young as 35 years old can compete.

In 2007, Graham received a 10K Gold Team Medal at the World Masters in Riccione, Italy. In Lahti, Finland, in 2009, she won a 10K Silver Team Medal and a 20K Silver Team Medal.

“The Brazilian people were very kind to us. If I bought something, I would always get a hug and even a kiss on the cheek,” Graham said.

A group of young soccer players from Brazil cheered for Graham and the other U.S. racewalkers during the competition, Graham said.

Graham, a board member in the local River City Runners and Walkers Club, said there are many outstanding racewalkers from around the world in the 60 and above age category.

And it isn’t all about winning a race or receiving a medal. Racewalkers support each other, she said.

Graham said she has enjoyed visiting the overseas locations for the World Masters races and meeting interesting people in the United States and abroad. She is looking forward to future competition in Perth, Australia, and Lyon, France.

Graham became interested in racewalking after injuring a knee in a fall in 2004.

She started walking to strengthen the injured knee and began racewalking in 2006. She trains with racewalking coach Dave McGovern and is a member of his World Class Racewalking Team.

Graham competes in about 30 local racewalking events a year and another four or five events outside the area that are judged races. This year, Graham anticipates participating in seven judged racewalks.

In racewalking, one foot must be on the ground at all times. The advancing leg must be straightened (not bent at the knee) from the moment of first contact with the ground until in the vertical upright position.

Graham retired in 2001 after 30 years as a business teacher at Fort Frye High School. She didn’t like to walk for exercise and fun back then because she “walked all day as a teacher.”

Graham belongs to Marietta College’s Fitness Center, where she takes strength and flexibility training. “This is a help with my training besides just racewalking,” she said.

Graham owns Blackhorse Farm in Washington County.

“Racewalking and River City Runners and Walkers Club have been a big part of my life for the last seven years,” Graham wrote in an email.

“The runners are supportive of the racewalkers and vice versa. Breaking my kneecap was a life-changing event,” she said.

“When it happened, I thought it was the worst thing that could have happened since I had a barnful of horses to take care of and wasn’t sure how I was going to do that. However, it actually changed my life for the better,” Graham said.