Debbi Lawrence's race walking career has spanned over 20 years. Like many others, she started as a runner and got injured. Having trouble staying injury free, her running coach Mike Dewitt and then-boyfriend Don Lawrence showed her the basics. The basics were all she needed, because in her first race she qualified for the U.S. Nationals. While not finishing in a position to guarantee her place on an international team, some women who finished ahead of her decided to race at another distance and freed a space for Lawrence to race internationally. Race internationally she did, but it was not enough to lure her to race walking permanently.
Returning to school and still on a scholarship for running, Lawrence ran cross country and indoor track. She was racing exceptionally well and qualified for Nationals in the 1500M and 3000M races. Then, once again, she injured her knees.
Lawrence started race walking again, allowing the race walk training to maintain her running fitness level. Just before nationals, she jogged and ran a little and it was enough for her to finish 3rd in the 3000M. To avoid further injury, she scratched from the 1500M. Dewitt knew that his athlete only had one good race on her knee. Even though she was the defending 1500M Champion, the 1500M had heats, whereas the 3000M had only a final race. Turned out he was right; Lawrence’s knee problems continued to plague her.
With a bad knee, Lawrence focused on walking. Again she qualified for nationals and competed overseas. Over her career she has been a three-time Olympian ('92, '96, '00); eight-time U.S. Outdoor champion ('84, '86, '90, '91, '92, '93, '96, '97); four-time U.S. Indoor champion ('92, '93, '94, '97); and 1991 Pan American Games 10K silver medalist.