Pacesetter – Doretha Walker

Every month Traxee features one extraordinary member who exemplifies the spirit of women’s running and of giving back to the community. This month they featured our very own C4W Board President, the amazing Ms. Walker – triathlete and founder of the Walker Phenomenal Spirit Award…

Doretha Walker
Age: 49
Home: Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina
Blog: www.wecanflyhigher.com
Years she’s been running: 25

Average weekly mileage: My workout schedule varies depending on what I’m training for. I try to get at least one 10-mile run in every week.

Current training goal: I am currently training for the She TRIs Wilmington – Women ONLY Triathlon 2010 triathlon in September, so right now I’m back in the pool as well as running.

Favorite Race: The Marine Corps Marathon

Gear love: My current (running shoe) love is the Brooks Glycerin 7s. I also use eSoles (specialized insoles), Yankz laces, and Footlocker socks (I like them better than the more expensive brands).

Favorite reward: Champagne – and putting the event magnets on my car! I have 26.2, Running Girl and Swim, Bike, Run.

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We first met Doretha on Traxee’s Facebook Page just before her first triathlon and it didn’t take long to discover that her passion for running is only matched by her commitment to service.

By day, Doretha works full time as a logistics manager. She is also an adjunct instructor in Human Resources and Public Relations for the Art Institute of Charleston, a guest columnist for Charleston Post & Courier and serves as the President of the Board of Directors for The Center For Women (C4W), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to make personal and professional success an everyday event for women in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina.

Since 1990, C4W has touched the lives of more than 70,000 women, connecting them to professional sources for practical help by providing counseling, facilitating peer support groups, and making referrals. Oprah Winfrey honored The Center for Women in 2006 with an Oprah’s Angel Network Grant and the organization has been recognized by numerous civic organizations on the state and national level.

In 2005, Doretha developed the Walker Phenomenal Spirit Award, which provides one-time grants to women 35 years of age and older to help fund a project, activity or event that fulfills a heartfelt dream. Impressed? There’s more!

Our Ms. Walker is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in public policy and administration and is actively working on bringing an all-woman triathlon to the Charleston area. “My goal,” she says “is to get move women involved in the sport in a non-intimidating way.”

Doretha clearly redefines the concept of “finding time!”

Earlier this month Doretha took time out to talk with me about her passion for running, her training schedule, and the things that have inspired her most in life.

How did you get started running? I was going into the Army out of college and running is a requirement. My dad is a former Army drill sergeant and he would take me out for runs.

How do you stay motivated in your training? I think of all of the people who cannot move and remember how blessed I am. I also love to eat sweets and I know that if I don’t run, I will pay the price for butter cream frosting. I also love what running does for my mind and body. Running is the only place where I don’t ever feel angry, lonely, or any of those other depressing emotions.

We talk a lot on Traxee about the positive ways in which running influences women’s lives. How has running influenced you and your work? Running is a stress release for me. Completing my first marathon gave me such a boost of confidence. Now, when I find myself in difficult situations I just say “I got this. I ran 26.2 miles. This is easy.”

What does your typical weekly training schedule look like? Tell us your secrets! I do cross-train and am in the pool twice a week, on the bike twice a week, and run at least twice a week. I used to do Pilates and I miss that, but fitting it into my schedule is just not possible right now. At work I do a lot of walking and rarely take the elevator. My eating regimen consists of tons of fruits and vegetables and I eat lots of salads and make my own dressings. I do not eat red meat and I bake instead of fry. I live near the ocean so fresh seafood is always available and is a staple in my diet. I make it a point to eat breakfast. I also allow myself that piece of chocolate or glass of champagne when warranted. My other treat to myself is a monthly facial. It’s very relaxing and I consider it “preventive maintenance” for my skin – repairing the damage caused by sun, stress, and age.

Who is your greatest inspiration as a runner? I will always admire Wilma Rudolph. She couldn’t even walk as a child and look what she did with determination and confidence! I have a quote by her taped to my bathroom wall. I saw Jackie Joyner Kersee at the Millrose Games awhile back. She has asthma and she is amazing. I loved Flo Jo as well, and Lolo Jones is phenomenal. I love to see women who are strong and still look like women.

How did you first become involved with the Center for Women? I was a consumer credit counselor and I did brown bag lunches (free lunchtime seminars) for them on credit card debt and how to buy a car. Then I started doing anything they asked me to from painting to manning booths at events. I fell in love with the mission: “To help women succeed everyday”. You do not have to be a label (homeless, abused, or any other name we use to categorize ourselves) to benefit from the many programs the Center provides.

What motivates you to volunteerism? What effect has your work with The C4W had on your own life? I grew up volunteering and honestly do not remember a time when I did not do it. My parents are committed volunteers, even to this day. They taught us that because we are blessed (and we are all blessed), it is our responsibility to pass along the blessings to others. I am the woman I am today due to some amazing volunteers who were my Girl Scout leaders, softball coaches, cheerleader coaches, and of course due to my parents’ teachings. It is a circle. I am doing my best to perpetuate it.

The award from Oprah Winfrey’s Angel Network must have been thrilling! There’s a lot of competition for such recognition. How did that happen? Oprah’s people found us on the Internet. She was coming to Charleston and wanted to give a grant to a women’s organization. We were one of the few organizations that had a web presence.  They sent a thorough confidential grant application and we were awarded the grant and tickets to see her.

How did you get the inspiration to create The Walker Phenomenal Spirit Award? It was actually on a six-mile run. I was thinking about going back to school and was wondering where I could get funding. People don’t usually give financial aid to people who aren’t “at-risk.”  I am not homeless, a single parent, abused, unemployed, uneducated, in poverty, or anything else that would put me in the category of those needing money or immediate rescuing. I am not rich, but I get by. So I decided that when I had some extra money that I would establish a foundation to help women pursue dreams regardless of the dream – and definitely regardless of their circumstances. The only criteria the Award that they be at least 35 years old and have a dream. When I got a sizeable bonus from work, I set up the Foundation. That happened to be around the same time Oprah came to town. Everything she said confirmed in me what I was about to do.

What do you think the biggest challenge is facing women today? I would say lack of confidence in themselves. If you are confident in your own abilities, the other stuff falls into place. It’s not easy, but confidence is the one thing you cannot buy. You have to earn it. You cannot rely on others to give it to you. It comes with the tour of duty in life.

What advice would you give a woman who may be in transition in her life? Be fearless – or at least act like it. Surround yourself with only true friends (I call them “dear sistergirlfriends”). Do not waste time trying to convince others that what you are doing, or about to do is the right thing. Your sistergirlfriends will support and nourish you through the process. Also, be a mentor to someone else. It’s the “each one teach one” philosophy. As you go further, you have a responsibility to give back some how.

How do you find time to do all that you do? I am driven. I just do what I do without thinking that I am doing too much. If it is important to me, I will find a way to get it done. I am also a master at saying no to the things that do not bring value to my life, or that are too draining without benefits. I am learning to be more selfish with my time, weeding out the things (and people) that do not fit.

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You can help Doretha make more women’s dreams come true by donating to the Walker Phenomenal Spirit Award through the Center for Women Website at www.c4women.org. Doretha can be contacted by email at dwimages@hotmail.com.

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