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Race walking couple gets faster with age

Living a healthy lifestyle has its own rewards, but Bill and Grace Moremen don’t mind the medals it brings them either.

The active Claremont couple has enjoyed many shared interests and hobbies over their 60 years of marriage, but none as distinguished as race walking. The Pilgrim Place residents have made their mark on this sport both at home and abroad. Their living room display case is a testament to their journey, brimming with awards from a slew of races that include nine international competitions.

The dedicated race walking enthusiasts recently returned from the World Masters Track and Field Championships in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where they garnered a few extra pieces of hardware for their collection. Mr. Moremen took home four gold medals in the men’s 85-89 division, while his wife made out with two silver medals and a bronze in the women’s 81-84.

With vacation time over, the Moremens have settled right back into routine, which means setting out to the Pomona College track at 6:30 a.m. five days a week in preparation for the next big event—Claremont’s own Turkey Trot on Thursday, November 28. Whether strolling the streets of Claremont or racing across a track 6,000 miles away, the Moremens feel right at home in their walking shoes.

“I enjoy the exercise—the feeling of fitness and strength and the nice tiredness that comes on when you’re through,” Mr. Moremen said. “But above all, I enjoy the companionship.”

Mr. Moremen savors spending time with his wife, nurturing their shared love for activity while circling the track at his alma mater Pomona College, where they spend most of their time training for upcoming races. A week’s workout typically includes 35 miles for Mr. Moremen, about 20 for his partner. The couple, now 85 and 83, has yet to slow down.

Age is just another number for Mr. Moremen, and growing older only an added opportunity for new accomplishments. The avid athlete relishes being 85 because it has meant competing in a new age division with the additional chance to set new world records. He may be one year older, but Mr. Moremen insists he is getting better with age. At age 60, Mr. Moremen’s race times were 65 to  percent of the world record. Now, he says he has hit the 80 to 85 percent mark. Ms. Moremen is over the 80 percent mark as well.

“So I think of myself getting faster, even though I am getting older,” he said.

Track and field is a long-held passion of Mr. Moremen’s that dates back to his college days. The Moremens first started race walking 25 years ago when a running injury forced Mr. Moremen to seek out an alternative form of exercise. Mr. Moremen’s injury has long since healed, but his running days are decidedly behind him.

 

“I discovered that race walking was much more interesting, much more complex, than running,” Mr. Moremen shared. “It involves 95 percent of the muscles in the body all working together, and there are certain rules distinguishing race walking from running that makes it more of a challenge.”

It takes time to adapt to the new technique, and judges along the race routes are quick to hand out red cards disqualifying those who break the rules. The Moremens admit they have each received the dreaded red card for accidentally breaking one of race walking’s two cardinal rules, having one foot on the ground at all times and keeping your leg straight.

“Once was enough,” Ms. Moremen laughed.

Within two months of taking to race walking, the Moremens were signed up for their first competition: the World Masters Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“We didn’t have the technique perfected yet, and here we were at a world championship. I remember feeling quite nervous,” Ms. Moremen recalled.

With hundreds of regional races and nine world championships under their belts, the nerves have all but disappeared. Their technique continues to improve as their walking shoes take them across the states and to international hubs like England, Japan, South Africa, Spain, Italy, Finland and now Brazil. The South American race ranks among their favorites, and not just because of the blue track resembling their hometown track.

“The Brazilian people were so engaging and friendly,” Ms. Moremen said. “It just sort of warmed our hearts more than any other country we’ve been in.”

It’s these personal connections that help make the experience. “It’s what keeps us going,” Ms. Moremen said.

Inspired by the newfound friendships forged through their sport, the Moremens have expanded their exercise regime and social circle with the founding of the Pilgrim Pacers, encouraging others of the Claremont community to get walking too. The Pilgrim Pacers meet every Friday at 6:30 a.m. at the Pomona College track. For more information, email the Moremens at wmoremen@gmail.com.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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