World champ Heather Lee is walking for another record
STARTING competitive sport at age 70 isn't quite what you expect to hear, but then you haven't met Heather Lee OAM, until now.
The 91-year-old NSW resident has spent the last 20 years on the road, walking to her way to fitness and to a happier older life.
At age 85 Heather broke every Australian record for her age group in the 1500m, 3km, 5km and 10km race-walk distances. And in the same year she broke the 3km and 5km world records. She currently holds all the world records for her 90/99 age group.
Her motivation for take her regular walking activity to the next level was driven by her late-husband, Leonard, who said to her just before he died, 'now is the time to show your mettle'. She found herself compelled to walk, and the more she did, the better she felt.
Heather stated with participating in the Sydney to Surf in 2001 and then went onto many other public walking events. "I started to run out of peers to compete against," Heather said. "My physiotherapist suggested I try my luck in the Australian Masters Games in Adelaide in 2011." She registered for four events not realising it was race-walking. Four gold medals later after using the corridor of her hotel to practice the rules of race-walking, Heather discovered she is very competitive.
"Every Friday I do a 10km walk which I can do in an hour and 25 minutes," Heather said. "I just love it. I feel so much better afterwards. You come home and feel so good about yourself. It just sets me up for the day."
Heather has a weekly session with her 58-year-old trainer and then trains by herself three times a week. She's on her own on the road, but that doesn't seem to faze Heather. "A lot of my old friends have died," Heather said. "My friends now are younger people because I have sort of out-lived everybody else."
Armed with a pedometer and a focus on her pace, Heather concentrates on working against the clock to improve her performance, every time. "I'm not out there to smell the roses," Heather said.
Her closest race-walk competitor is a Romanian woman who she raced in 2016. "I wasn't quite 90 at the time and she was five months older," Heather said. "I competed in the 85 to 90 age and she competed in the 90s plus. I went there to beat her, which I did."
Last weekend heather walked 10km in the Blackmore's Sydney Running Festival, Bridge Run. This weekend she will participate in her 15th 24-hour Hawkesbury Relay for Life which raises money for Cancer NSW. Last year she completed 96,000 steps. This year Heather is aiming to complete 100,000 steps. She is looking for supporters for her Team Heather Lee. "I will get there," she determinedly declares.
Heather will keep race walking as long as her body allows her. "It gives me a good quality of life and keeps me fit," she said.