If you are invited to go for a walk with Graham Clarke, be prepared for some serious speed.

The Rotorua 76-year-old was in Whanganui this month to compete at the New Zealand Masters games and came home with a gold medal in the 75-79-year-old 10km walk event, just his second major walking event.

Clarke said he was aiming for a time of about one hour and 30 minutes - he finished in 1h 27m 32s.

"It felt great [to win], I put a little bit of effort into it and did a bit of training in my own way," Clarke said.


His walking career began when he retired, at age 70, and joined the Rotorua Cross Country Walking Group.

"The distance was never going to be a problem, because I'm with the walking group here in Rotorua. So, I had to get my speed up, that's what my training concentrated on," he said.

"I started off by doing about 5km and doing it quite fast. I did that two or three times, then slowly extended my distance and tried to keep up the same pace in comparison. I skimmed a bit of my time I was aiming for, I was pleased about that."

He said there were about 150 to 200 men and women on the start line, from all the different age groups, so it was hard to tell who he was racing against. He had to resist the temptation to try to keep up with the front runners and just stick to his own pace.

"There were some very keen people who jump started and away they went. It was an individual thing, I just stuck to my own thoughts and concentrated on what I'd been training for.

"I had a few guys who I thought were about my age, so I sort of didn't want them to get out of reach - I kept an eye on them. The next one in, from my age group, after me was one hour 37 minutes, so I was a good 10 minutes ahead of him."

Rotorua's Graham Clarke. Photo / Andrew Warner
Rotorua's Graham Clarke. Photo / Andrew Warner

Clarke said he played sports growing up, including hockey and cricket, and walking was a good way to remain active. He finished fourth in his age group in the half marathon walk at the New Zealand Masters Games in Dunedin 11 years ago. He and his wife have also competed in ballroom dancing.

"That event in Dunedin was my first real race, I learned a lot from that. There are two sides to the walking. There's the social side, you get to meet other people and join in, you have to join something I feel.


"The other side is definitely the health benefits, I'm still quite fit. Fortunately, I haven't really got any medical problems to speak of, I've been pretty lucky there. I haven't had to fight any injuries.

"The walking group goes out on a Tuesday and Thursday and you just go when you feel like going. It's not a race, it's just an outing for whoever wants to go. You can't just go galloping off, it's a group thing."

Clarke said he did not have his eye on any other upcoming races, but "if something comes up that suits me, I'll do it".