Walking into the record books

The Morning Bulletin - - OLDER & WISER -

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 past 20 years walking her way to fit­ness and a hap­pier older life.

At age 85 Mrs Lee broke ev­ery Aus­tralian record for her age group in the 1500m, 3km, 5km and 10km race-walk dis­tances. 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 tak­ing 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.

Mrs Lee started with the City to Surf in 2001 and then went on to many other pub­lic walking events.

“I started to run out of peers to com­pete against,” she 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 race­walk­ing.

Four gold medals later, af­ter us­ing the cor­ri­dor of her ho­tel to prac­tice the rules of race­walk­ing, Mrs Lee dis­cov­ered she was very com­pet­i­tive.

“Ev­ery Fri­day I do a 10km walk, which I can do in an hour and 25 min­utes,” she 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.”

Mrs Lee has a weekly ses­sion with her 58-year-old trainer and trains by her­self three times a week. She’s on her own on the road but that doesn’t faze her.

Armed with a pe­dome­ter and a fo­cus on her pace, Mrs Lee con­cen­trates on work­ing against the clock to im­prove her per­for­mance, ev­ery time.

“I’m not out there to smell the roses,” she said.

Her clos­est race-walk com­peti­tor is a Ro­ma­nian woman she raced in 2016.

“I wasn’t quite 90 at the time and she was five months older,” Mrs Lee said.

“I went there to beat her, which I did.”

This week­end Mrs Lee will par­tic­i­pate in her 15th 24-hour Hawkes­bury Re­lay for Life, which raises money for Can­cer Coun­cil NSW.

Last year she com­pleted 96,000 steps. This year she is aim­ing for 100,000 steps.

“I will get there,” she said.

Photo: Chris Kidd

ON THE MOVE: Heather Lee, 91, has taken walking to an­other level, col­lect­ing plenty of records on the way.

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