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