With much success as a high school runner logging a 2:11 half mile and 4:32 1500M, Maryanne Torrellas came to walking naturally, earning top rankings and a track scholarship in the process. Her cousin, Peter Timmons, a national-class race walker, introduced her to the sport of race walking and encouraged her to try it.
fter seven consecutive stress fractures in her foot, Torrellas accepted Timmons’ advice and began race walking to stay in shape. While she dabbled, she learned to enjoy the sport. She quickly got in shape and qualified for the 1978 Indoor Nationals. She remembers her initiation to the racing elite on a very small track where, in the middle of the pack, Susan Liers stepped on her shoe.
Lured back into running, Torrellas became distracted from athletics when she married and had a child. After the pregnancy, Torrellas described herself as a walking house. Recently, she showed a friend her picture from those days, and the friend didn’t recognize her.
Torrellas realized she needed to get back in shape. With motivation the key to success, she set the goal of qualifying for the 1983 outdoor nationals and in the process lost 35 pounds. She qualified for the 10K by the skin of her teeth. Her goal was simple: to finish anywhere but last. Worried she was the slowest qualifier, she raced beyond her dreams and finished in the top four. This qualified Torrellas for a trip to Swedish Walk Week, where she set the American record for the 1 mile, the 3K, and the 5K. Torrellas also qualified for the World Cup that year. Hoping to break 50:00 for the 10K, she smoked the majority of the field with a 47:52, finishing 16th overall. Race walking had her hooked.
Torrellas managed to have three more children within a busy race walking career in which she won the 10K Nationals six times. After her second and third children, she kept breaking the American records and at one point held all records from 1500M to 10K.
With all her success, Torrellas never competed in the Olympics. Early in her career, there was no women’s race walking event in the Olympic Games. Later in her career, a series of torn knee cartilages hampered her. Finally, after collapsing at the Olympic Trials in 1996, she was forced to retire from race walking with heart valve damage.
Today, Torrellas balances work as a massage therapist and personal trainer. She has served on the medical staff of the Olympic Games and World Championships, manages women's race walk development, and judges at the Master’s level. She competes only for fun, entering Master’s race walks, and even has tried the steeplechase. In 2003 she traveled to the Master’s Nationals, won the walk, returned a few hours later, and finished second in her age group for the steeplechase. She was happy to need only a few backstrokes in the water pit. Torrellas says the steeples are not that high—unless of course you are forty-five!
As many stories come full circle, Torrellas repaid her cousin for introducing her to race walking. Timmons needed a kidney transplant and Torrellas was a match. Donating one of her kidneys to her cousin, she didn’t think twice.