To her friends and classmates, journalism student Georgina Norun doesn’t seem like an elite quasi-athlete.
“Yeah, I guess she does walk fast,” fellow Cronkite student Mark Normal said. “I don’t really think about it.”
Norun is one of thousands of competitors expected to compete in the USGD-sponsored “Downtown Racewalk 5K.” The 5K has the biggest cash payout of any Racewalk on the 2013 National Racewalk Circuit, with a prize pool of $37.50.
“It’s not about the money,” Norun said. “It’s all about the love of the pseudo-game. I’m not saying I couldn’t use my share of the cash, but I’m not about the fame or fortune. When I’m up training kind of early — like, maybe around 10 a.m. on a Saturday — it’s not money that keeps me going. It’s first place.”
Norun has persevered through multiple controversies and injuries throughout her storied career. This is Norun’s first event since her controversial disqualification in the 2011 “McDonald’s Racewalk 300.” Norun finished the race in first place, but had her victory taken away for a running violation. Norun missed the entire 2012 season with a cut on her left big toe.
“There were times last year when I really thought I wasn’t going to come back,” Norun said. “My toe was pretty bad. It was bleeding a little.”
The injury required three regular sized bandages, although some doctors from the U.S. Olympic team argued one extra large bandage would have been a better approach.
Norun claims that she is 100% healthy going into 2013, but some of her competitors have their doubts.
“I’m not sure if you ever really recover from a major injury like that,” said Swedish racewalker Sebastian Eklov. “I mean, I guess the toe will recover physically – but are you ever the same again mentally?”
Norun’s injury, along with shocking retirement of 2012 Circuit champion John “Iron Toe” Smith, leaves the field for the 5K wide open. With the aforementioned historically high prize pool and a handshake and Facebook friend request from USGD President Joe Grossman for the winner, things are going to get heated.
“Wait, we’re sponsoring a what? Oh, yeah, I guess my new Facebook friend request is going to be a big deal,” Grossman said. “Has the ASA ever put on a racewalk? No. No, seriously, somebody tell me if they have because I really didn’t even know this was a thing.”
The winner of the 5K will be in a great position to compete for the 2013 Circuit championship. A championship is the only thing Norun is missing to finish cementing her legacy, which includes an Olympic gold medal and 3 Most Valuable Walker awards.
“It’s all about championships,” Norun said. “I’ll be honest — 6 months ago when I had to put a second bandage on my toe, I didn’t think I’d even be here. Now that I’m here, I’m going to make it count. Always remember: Anything’s possible!”
Norun becomes eligible for the near-sport Hall of Fame next year, where she hopes to join legends in fields like underwater basket weaving, hot air ballooning and professional video games.
The Downtown Racewalk 5K will be held Monday in Civic Space Park. More details can be found at the event’s Google Plus page.