Marlaine in action in the 1981 World Masters championships and receiving her LM medallion in 2008
Marlaine, born 1st July 1938, took up racewalking in 1977 at 39
years of age. She was the busy mother of a family of 6 children (4
daughters and 2 sons) and was looking for an activity to lose weight.
One of her daughters was involved in athletics as both a runner and a
walker and Marlaine chose racewalking as the activity of choice.
She approached Betty Newman at a Veterans meeting at the Box Hill track one evening and asked for advice. Under Betty's guidance, she improved quickly. In 1978, she joined the Victorian Amateur Walkers’ Club (VAWC) and started building up her weekly mileage.
By 1979 she had advanced sufficiently to contemplate a trip to Hannover in Germany for the World Veterans Championships and took bronze medals in the W40 5000m trackwalk (26:21) and the 10 km roadwalk (53:42). These are still very competitive times thirty years down the track and they indicate how quickly Marlaine had improved from her zero base position two years earlier. In fact, these remain her PBs to this day.
In 1981, now being coached by Harry Summers (who still coaches her now), she saddled up for the next World Veterans Championships being held in Christchurch, New Zealand, and there she improved to take silvers in both walks and a Gold in the Teams event.
She also did the occasional run with her husband Roy and, around this time, won the W40 Australian Veterans Cross Country championship. A good track runner in the Veterans level, her best 5000m time was 20:03.
While Marlaine was a good track walker over the shorter distances, it was really the longer distances that she loved, both for training and for racing, and it was in 1982 that she broke new ground and became the first Victorian woman to finish a 50 km racewalking event. Her time of 5:52:03 in the Victorian Open roadwalking championship that year was good enough to take 6th place and, to this day, she remains one of a very select group of women who have completed a 50 km event. That same year she also competed in the Canberra 20 Mile event, finishing 19th in a time of 3:27:48.
In preparation for these events, she trained on her own, amassing the miles along the Yarra bike path each evening after work in the city. She regularly clocked up 100 km or more a week and her weight had dropped from an initial 70 km to a trim 54 km.
“I used to sit around and knit and do nothing. When I started walking, I just walked around the track and it nearly killed me. I had so many aches and pains I wondered sometimes if it was worth it. But I was determined to win a medal so I kept trying.”
She also regularly competed in the Victorian Open Women's championships and, in 1986, took bronze in the Victorian 20 km championship (2:09:05) behind Lorraine Jachno and Sharon Schnyder. She also took bronzes in the Victorian Open track walking championships on a number of occasions in the early 1980's. Her 1984 bronze medal in the Victorian 5000m track championship was a special occasion. Sue Cook won in a World Record time of 22:06.2 ahead of Sally Pierson (22:52.9) and Lorraine Young (23:35.6). In fourth place was M Gustafson and A. Jansson, both of Sweden, and Marlaine, in the Box Hill colours was next. The Victorian championship result showed Sally first, Lorraine second and Marlaine third and she mounted the presentation dias alongside three of Australia's best ever female walkers – elite company indeed!
It was not until 1987 that she participated in her next World Vets championships which were held in her native Melbourne. There, at 49 years of age, she took bronze in the W45 5000m track walk in around 27 minutes. She had maintained her form well. Her only other World Veterans outing was in 2001 when the event came to Australia once again, with Brisbane as the host city. There she missed out on an individual medal but she was part of the Australian women's team which took gold in the road walk.
Overall, her World Veterans collection of medals consists of 2 Team Golds, 2 individual Silvers and 3 individual Bronzes.
Marlaine's husband Roy took up athletics at the same time as her in 1977, again to lose weight and to work on general fitness. It's hard to believe, looking at Roy now, that he was 12 stone in weight at that time. He chose running as his sport of choice and, like Marlaine, threw himself into Veterans athletics. Again, like Marlaine, he was successful, winning a number of Australian Age Group championships over distances such as 10000m. He ran a 2:55 marathon when aged in his fifties, a tough feat by any standard. 30 years down the track and now aged 74, he still runs and is as enthusiastic as ever.
Marlaine and Roy are regulars at Albert Park where Marlaine is an active VRWC Committee member and Women's Club Captain. She races when possible and helps out in the background, ensuring that the club stays healthy and relevant. In 2008, she was awarded VRWC Life Membership, a just recognition for her contribution to the club as a competitor and as a committee member.