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Try to Keep Up With Australia’s Fastest 92-Year-Old Woman

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RICHMOND, New South Wales — I thought I would come to Australia and learn to surf. Instead, I learned to walk.

More precisely, I lumbered, jogged, waddled and generally humiliated my way around a track as I tried — and failed — to keep up with the world’s most exceptional race walker.

That walker, Heather Lee, is 92 years old. She holds five world records and eight Australian ones for racewalking. She is the New South Wales Senior Australian of the Year. And she has big plans for 2019 — namely, breaking her own best times — so she does not kid around when it comes to working out.

Ms. Lee trains at least three days a week. Wednesdays are reserved for interval training with her coach, Liz de Vries. “I never know what horrors she has in store for me,” Ms. Lee said. “But I’m turning back the clock as far as speed’s concerned.”

On a typical day, Ms. Lee walks at least 10,000 steps — a benefit, she said, of giving up driving. In 2018, she walked 3,057,374 steps, according to her fitness watch.

The athlete was already stretching with Ms. de Vries, a fit mother of three, when I met them at a park in Richmond, an hour outside Sydney, at 7:30 a.m. “I’m 55,” Ms. de Vries told me. “And I’m one of the few people in Richmond who can keep up with Heather.”

Many older people I know are focused on the past. When they talk about the future, they are, quite understandably, preoccupied with the hassles and obstacles of their increasing age. Ms. Lee is different. When she looks ahead, it is with optimism and determination. She credits that to her sport. “I’m always looking to compete again,” she said.

Race walking is hard. Trying to do it while maintaining a conversation is........

© The New York Times