Yolanda Holder’s achievements are amazing. The 62-year-old is a two-time Guinness World Record Holder for “most marathons completed in a calendar year” and the oldest person to have race walked 100 miles in under 24 hours. She is a finisher of six 6-day races with a podium finish in every single one and the American Woman Record holder 10 Day Race with 622 Miles.
When the Californian pedestrian completed the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race in Jamaica, Queens, in 2017, she admitted ahead of the race that it was her biggest challenge.
In that event, participants had 52 days to complete the distance of 3100 miles around a single block in Queens, New York City. Runners had to circle that single block for more than six weeks straight, 18 hours a day, and could only break between midnight and 6 am to sleep, The New York Times reported. And despite the rainstorm, various injuries, and mental stress that came with preparation for the race, Holder, then 59, finished the event, which organizers called the longest certified foot race in the world. The interesting fact is while the others ran, Holder walked — finishing the race in 51 days, 17 hours and 13 seconds.
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“Everyone knows that when Yolanda sets out to do something, she accomplishes it,” she said ahead of the event. “If I don’t finish this race, something went wrong.”
Indeed, at the end of the event, Holder became the oldest woman to finish the astonishing race, and only the second American woman to complete it.
Observers started calling her a legend. Known also as the Walking Diva for her fashionable race outfits, the racewalker has to date broken many world records. What she cherishes most is “Extreme Walk 4 Diabetes”, an annual event she founded in honor of her parents.
Holder, a wife and mother of two children, began walking after her parents died from complications related to diabetes. She walked to honor them and to raise health and fitness awareness, she said. “I started power walking 20 years ago at the 1998 Portland Marathon. I chose Portland because they were and still are walker friendly,” she told Lifetime Running.
“In my peak years of walking I averaged 70 miles a week, and if I’m training for a marathon, over 100 miles a week. At age 50, I decided to enter 50 marathons in 50 weeks, and completed two, or sometimes three, marathons per week,” she added.
Though the U.S.-based Professional Ultramarathon Walker has admitted that all her marathons have been exciting and memorable, her proudest achievements have been when she “became a World Champion Pedestrian, a finisher of the longest certified footrace in the world, the Sri Chinmoy Self Transcendence 3100 Mile Race.”
“Also: 2019 US Centurion #94; American Woman 10 Day Record holder (622 Miles, 2014); American & World Record Age Group Six Day Race (413 Miles, 2019),” she said.
Holder didn’t train in her younger years though she did walk every day. Becoming a race walker, she now knows how to train and follows a training program. She sometimes cross-trains by lifting weights and using the machines at the gym. All these, she believes, have helped her with the aging process. “I truly believe walking daily helps the aging process. I look 20 years younger than many my age. Walking daily also helps control all diseases,” said Holder, who is also an inspirational speaker and author.
Over the years, she has been speaking with athletes of all ages and abilities about their greatest obstacles and to date, her purpose in life is “to inspire and motivate everyone to take care of their health by walking 30 minutes a day every day.”