By ELISIA OWENS MUMFORD
Meet Yolanda Holder, the “Walking Diva.” Power walker and Guinness World Record holder, Yolanda uses her unique form of racing to highlight the benefits of exercise. In the beginning, Yolanda was a race walker. Unlike power walking, it is judged for technique and form. She combined the two types of walking to create her own style of power walking. When asked about her definition of power walking, Yolanda replied, “Basically, power walking is your own style of walking. Pumping your arms as you walk creates more speed and power. There is no right or wrong way to power walk. It is an individual process.”Yolanda’s first full marathon was the Portland Marathon in 1998. She chose the race because it was walker-friendly. In 1999, she completed several additional marathons and numerous 5k, 10k and half-marathons. To commemorate her 50th birthday, Yolanda wanted to complete 50 marathons. That year she not only reached her goal, but surpassed it. She finished 65 marathons in 52 weeks.
In 2009, Yolanda finished 77 marathons. At the end of that year, she researched Guinness Book of World Records to see what the record was for “Most Mileage Daily for 365 Days.” She learned the record was 100 marathons set in 2002 by an Italian. Yolanda decided to set out to break that record.
In 2010, she power walked 93 consecutive marathons on her quest and topped the Italian record with 106 marathons. By 2012, she beat her own record by competing in 120 marathons. Yolanda reached this milestone at the 26.2-mile Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Las Vegas. When talking about participating in marathons and ultra marathons, Yolanda says, “I do it for the bling, my health is an added benefit.”
On September 2, 2013, Yolanda’s mother passed away of complications related to diabetes. She had already lost her father from the same disease. In honor of her mom, Yolanda was inspired to create an Extreme Walk 4 Diabetes. During that year, she walked 521 Miles in 15 days from Corona to Oakland and raised funds for American Diabetes Association.
Promoting the benefits of walking 30 minutes a day is very important to Yolanda. “I’m passionate about walking for health and hope to continue to inspire and motivate people of all ages to get out and get fit by doing whatever physical activity they chose,” she says. Yolanda states the benefits of those 30 minutes of physical activity includes lowering cholesterol, decreasing the chances of heart disease, and fighting obesity.
She says, “The hardest part of exercising is getting up to do it.”
Yolanda has a distinctive competitive style. She does not wear “walking” shoes. Her favorite brand of shoes is Skechers. She always wears skirts. She was racing in tennis skirts before running skirts became popular. Running skirts have many features, including pockets for gel packs and a music player, as well as compression shorts underneath. She always wears a hat. Different styles are worn by this diva, including caps and fedoras. In addition, she always sports hoop earrings and designer sunglasses.”I wear shades because I am cool like that! Who says you can’t look good while you exercise?” she asks.
Yolanda uses several techniques for mentally preparing for marathons and ultra marathons. She meditates about reaching the finish line and encourages herself by saying positive statements like, “I will do my best and I will have conquered all those miles when I am done.” At mile 23, when she is tired and enduring the pain of blisters, she convinces herself that she is having fun and she smiles. Visualizing the finish line and the medal around her neck also provides a great deal of encouragement.
Yolanda laughs as she tells of one of the pep songs she sometimes sings in her head during a race. “Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me? Don’t you wish your girlfriend was a marathoner like me?” She states that participating in long races are very spiritual experiences. “Talking to God for six hours gives you a lot of time to come up with multiple solutions to your problems” she shares. By the time Yolanda reaches the finish line, most of the other runners have already finished and there are only a few watchers left. When she hears those people cheering, she knows it’s for her.
She has been married to her husband for 31 years and is mother of two grown children. Her children share her drive to succeed. Son R.J. is a double major college graduate and daughter Tiffany is a missionary She has traveled all over the US to compete. As a member of Marathon Maniacs and the Legends of 100, Yolanda has competed at various races, including the New York and Boston Marathons.
Some of her latest accomplishments include competing in Anchorage, Alaska at the Six Days at the Dome, where she placed in the top three women and eleventh overall by power walking 400 miles. Yolanda also completed 311 miles in 10 days in the Extreme Walk 4 Diabetes Death Challenge from Corona to Las Vegas to raise money for the American Diabetes Association. Yolanda has completed 485 marathons in the last six years. By the end of this year, she wants to pass another milestone: finish 500 lifetime marathons.
Yolanda was honored to be chosen as one of the core team runners for the Race Across the USA event. She shares the race’s goals of raising awareness about childhood fitness as the run from coast-to-coast, beginning in January 2015. Even though she has been previously traveled to all 12 states that the race is passing through, she is looking forward to the whole journey which includes camping. She anticipates the opportunity to show how walking can improve overall health. Showing others how fitness can be fun is definitely one of her top priorities.
“You never know where walking will lead you, said Yolanda” There is a lot of truth in that statement. Just look at the Walking Diva. You can learn more about the Race Across the USA at http://raceacrossusa.org.