Distance great Marco Evoniuk actually started his athletic career as a high school sprinter, running the 220 in 22.8 and the 440 in 50.5; but his destiny was elsewhere. Growing up in the strong amateur track community of Colorado, in 1976 Evoniuk was lured into race walking by two Centurion race walkers. While we very rarely hear of Centurion walkers today, like the Jedi Knights, they once were plentiful.
Dr. Amaroso and the late Chuck Hunter took Evoniuk in as their padawan learner during his senior year of high school. Evoniuk quickly became quite serious about his training. In no time at all, he was race walking distances—long distances. With strong family support behind him, he excluded everything except his studies. He recognized that as a sprinter without a distance base, he needed to train hard. Feeling he needed a diverse training program, he combined running and walking workouts to master the distance and form of race walking.
On Saturdays, Evoniuk chased master's running-great Bob Green for about 12 miles, running 5:30 per mile while Green smoked him. On Sundays, Evoniuk joined the Centurions. Battered from his runs, he typically ambled 20-mile walks at a 10-minute pace. "I couldn't go any faster," remembers Evoniuk.
In all, Evoniuk ran and walked for a combination of approximately 70 to 90 miles per week. With the exception of his weekly distance day with the Centurions, Evoniuk didn't believe in Long Slow Distance (LSD) workouts. "I just go fast, everyday," Evoniuk recalls. He felt this training approach worked best for him, perhaps because of his sprinting background. Racing whenever he could—practically every weekend—Evoniuk bounced between racing at high school all-comer meets to race walking a series of 10K running competitions in the Denver area.
These races must not have been enough of a challenge, because soon Evoniuk ran the Denver marathon (finishing in 2:40), "Just to build confidence." He soon taught his mentors who the new master was.
In 1977 Evoniuk finished second at the 100K National Championships with a time of 11:19. While finishing second in such races represents a significant achievement, to be a true master of the sport, Evoniuk needed to succeed at the Olympic distances of 20K and 50K. His big breakthrough came in 1978, when he finished fifth at the U.S. 20K Nationals at UCLA to qualify for his first international race, the Swedish Walk in June.
The international experience really helped Evoniuk mature as a competitor. Placing at national competition provided little challenge for the upstart: the very first time he raced the 50K Nationals, he won. Still a relative unknown in 1978, he took most of the 50K field by surprise. After Nationals, in typical Evoniuk style, he drove all night to join a training camp with the top Mexican race walkers. Gaining international exposure with the likes of Mexican walking greats Daniel Bautista and Raul Gonzales added to his confidence.