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Corona homemaker power-walks away from the competition

Yolanda Holder, 52, is the most persistent female foot-racer anywhere. She's competed in a record 101 marathons this year — and she's not done yet. Yes, she does slow down when she strolls with friends.

December 11, 2010|By Bob Pool, Los Angeles Time

Yolanda Holder walked off this week with a world marathon record.

Now the 52-year-old Corona homemaker who power-walked her way through 101 races this year is eyeing a second world title.

Holder crossed the finish line at Sunday's 26.2-mile Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in Las Vegas to earn a spot in Guinness World Records as the most persistent female foot-racer anywhere.

The previous women's record was set by an Italian who competed in 100 marathons in 2002.

Holder's achievement was no stroll in the park, she concedes.

"I package the marathons very tightly," she said. "The logistics of getting to all of them is harder than doing the 26.2 miles. This year I traveled all over the country to compete."

That has meant two marathons each weekend. On April 10-11, she competed in three races totaling 101 miles.

Holder has spent about $25,000 this year on travel, accommodations and entry fees. Runners and power-walkers pay as much as $200 to participate in some marathons.

Her husband, computer engineer Roger Holder, accompanies her on some of the trips. "He goes to the bigger ones or to ones that are in cities he hasn't visited in a long time," she said.

The year's first race was also Holder's fastest of 2010.

"I did the 26.2 miles in five hours and 26 minutes. I was in a hurry because I had a plane to catch," she said. After finishing the Jan. 1 Kingwood, Texas, marathon, Holder flew back to Southern California for one in El Monte on Jan. 2.

The next weekend she competed in Jackson, Miss., and Mobile, Ala. The weekend after that it was off to Warner Robins, Ga., and then Phoenix.

Holder began power-walking 12 years ago after a friend asked her to participate in a 10K charity fundraiser. "I loved it, although I was sore afterward," she said. "Walking is much easier on your joints and body than running."

Soon, Holder joined Marathon Maniacs, a Seattle-based group that keeps tallies of its members' marathons and serves as a social club.

Her friends say Holder slows down when she walks with them.

"We do leisure walks together. It's certainly not power-walking," said Felma Jackson. "We live within walking distance of each other — about three miles. We each walk a mile and a half and meet in the middle."

The mother of a 24-year-old daughter and a 27-year-old son, Holder said power-walking energizes her. It's not without risks, however.

"I got a twisted ankle on March 27 at the Napa Valley Trail Marathon," she said. "The trail was very muddy. The next day I did the Oakland Marathon and finished in under six hours. I ended up doing nine more marathons on a strained ankle."

"But Napa wasn't as tough as the Mt. Disappointment 50K," Holder said. "It was held Aug. 7 in the Angeles Crest Forest on trails where the terrain was very tough and rocky. We had to climb over a big tree that had fallen down. I finished, but I had altitude sickness. My time was nine hours, 16 minutes and 40 seconds. But I made it."

The marathon that was most fun this year was Oct. 17 in Long Beach, Holder said.

"Everybody was having such a good time. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. They had a seven-hour cutoff — which means you couldn't finish if you took longer than that. I finished at six hours and 42 minutes because I was so busy taking pictures," she said.

Before stepping out to set a record this year, Holder entered 77 marathons in 2009. Next year her goal is to have competed in marathons in every state. She has 21 states to go.

But before that, Holder has her sights on another record: competing in more marathons in one year than anyone, man or woman. The current men's record-holder is Larry Macon, a San Antonio lawyer who as a 63-year-old ran in 105 marathons in 2008.

Earlier this week, Macon said he'd be rooting for Holder to beat his 2-year-old record. "She's a great person with a positive attitude. I'm a runner, but I'm pretty slow. There have been races where she passed me. She's a fast walker," he said.

On Friday, however, Holder disclosed that she and Macon are now both planning to complete a total of 106 marathons this year. "We're going to share the new record," she said. The pair will discuss their plans at 9 a.m. Monday on a runner's website, http://www.themarathonshow.com.

To do it, Macon, who so far has run in 97 marathons this year, plans to tackle nine more — including daily races the last week of the year.

Holder, meanwhile is headed to marathons in Tucson on Sunday and in Sausalito and Palo Alto in Northern California the weekend of Dec. 18-19. She will compete Dec. 26 at Dockweiler State Beach, and her final marathon will be Dec. 31 in Ocala, Fla., where Macon will also run his last race.

She said the two of them will take sharing the marathon record in stride.

bob.pool@latimes.com

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