HUMANA Heroes: October 2013 Athlete of the Month
Man of 1,000 Races
Experienced runners will tell you that it’s good to have a goal. But few goals are as remarkable as Don McMahill’s-that of competing in 1,000 races. The 77 year old retired YMCA director reached that ambitious milestone in the 5K race walk at the 2013 National Senior Games Presented by Humana in July. The occasion provided an opportunity for a family reunion of sorts as many relatives came to Cleveland to cheer and celebrate as fans at the finish line.
Don’s first race took place in Omaha, Nebraska in 1951 as a high school sophomore. During his running career he has been active in clubs and camps around the country, helping start what is now known as the Southern Colorado Runners Club in Pueblo, Colorado. He also started a club in Black Mountain, North Carolina where he now resides. Along the way he coached teams ranging from middle school to college level and continued coaching as a personal trainer for a number of years.
Don has run numerous marathons over his career. “My all-time favorite is the Pikes Peak Marathon in Colorado. I’ve started that race 12 times, but had to drop out twice-once due to altitude sickness and the other time for an injury. But six times I completed the full marathon, and made the ascent for four races.”
Another favorite run was not a race. Don conquering the Grand Canyon, going solo from rim to rim without support. “The 21 mile run took five hours and along the way I was begging hikers for water,” he recalls. “When I finished I thought I was sunburnt to a crisp, but I was actually covered in the red dust of the canyon!”
Don has been a fixture at races around North Carolina for many years, and was honored with having an invitational named after him – the 2012 Hyder-McMahill High School Invitational held at Montreat College in the Tarheel State.
A back injury five years ago prompted the senior strider to switch from running to race walking. He competed in his first National Senior Games in 2009 and finished 1,000 lifetime races in Cleveland. “My goal was to achieve this milestone by the time I turned 80, so I beat my objective by more than two years.”
Reaching the millennial number was a great accomplishment, but Don McMahill is just as eagerly looking forward to training and competing for the future the same way he made his goal – one race at a time.
Thanks to Julie McCoy (Don’s daughter) for contributing to this story.