Events: Race Walk
PRs: 20 km Race Walk - 1:24:26.9 (1994); 50 km Race Walk - 3:55:39 (1994)
Born: April 14, 1964, Sacramento, CA
Current Residence: Sanborn, NY
High School: Shorecrest HS '82 (Seattle, WA)
College: Western Washington University '87
Career Highlights: Two-time Olympian - 1992 (30th - 20 km) and 1996 (24th - 50 km); 18th place 1993 World Championships 20 km; 20 km walk: 4-time national champion; 50 km walk: 3-time national champion; 5000m walk (indoors) - 3 time national champion; 3-time World Walk Cup U.S. Team member; USATF Captain Ron Zinn Memorial Award: 20k Walk in 91, 92, 93, 94, 95; 50k Walk in 94 & 96; Hall of Fame, Western Washington University, 1996 Induction; NAIA All-American 1983 to 1996. NAIA Academic All-American 1985 & 1986.
Some like it hot. That was the case for Allen James, America's most dominant race walker in the 90s. He spent several years training to compete at his best in the 50km walk in the searing heat of Atlanta. He won the Trials in the fastest U.S. time of the year. Then, on August 2 in Atlanta, the heat lifted. "I was hoping for a hot day and we got an unusually cool day," he shrugs. "It was a very fast race. I was prepared for a battle in the heat. But you got to take your chances. I can't complain a whole lot. I wish I could have done a little better." James finished 24th in 4:01:18, a solid performance in any case.
When James decided to finally give the 50km walk a try back in 1994, he went after the 31 miles-plus in a big way. Speeding up over the second half of the Palo Alto, California, race, James clocked 3:55:39, taking more than a minute off the American record that had been set by Marco Evoniuk six years earlier. "I wanted to see if this was my best race for the future," James told Bob Bowman of Track & Field News. "I'm very encouraged."
With that, hopes for U.S. walking got a rise. James followed with national titles at both Olympic distances: 20K and 50K. In 1995, he broke the four-hour barrier again with his 3:59:27 for sixth at the Pan-Am Games. Calling it "a great experience," James adds, "I wasn't really trained for a 50, and doing as well as I did, that was probably the highlight of the year. It was a real tough field."
The son of an Air Force colonel and a Seattle store owner (his mother owns the Super Jock 'n' Jill running store, one of his major sponsors), James grew up as a self-described "track brat." Distance runner and coach Pat Tyson lived with the family while James grew up. Tyson turned James on to track and he started running age group events as a fourth-grader. Three years later he started race walking.
Much of his inspiration came from the people he met as a child: Steve Prefontaine, a roommate of Tyson's at Oregon; Olympic 20K walk champ Ernesto Canto, who stayed at James' house with the Mexican walk team for an event in the '70s; and coaching legend Arthur Lydiard, a Thanksgiving guest one year.
In high school James skipped track to concentrate on cross country, soccer and swimming. He graduated from Western Washington University in 1987 with a degree in business administration and immediately became a player on the U.S. walk scene. In 1990 he broke into the top 10 rankings for the U.S. at 20K and from 1992 to 1995, he held onto the number one spot there.
Since going into semi-retirement in 1997, James now considers walking a hobby that helps keep him in shape. His so-called retirement includes more Millrose Games titles and several fine finishes at National Championship races and the Penn Relays. Training as time allows, James averages less than 20 miles per week. James works for New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation where he recently accepted a transfer to be the Director of Marketing and Special Events at Niagara Falls State Park and the Niagara Region. He and his wife, Laura, have three children, Teisha, age 11, Denae, 8, and Axel, 6.
1997: Indoors Only - US Nat'l Champion 5,000m (Indoors). Retired from Competitive Walking after Indoor Championships and undefeated indoor series.
1996: Ranked #1 US - 50km, #4 US - 20km - US Nat'l Champion 5,000m(Indoors) & 50km Walks. 50km Olympic Trials time of 3:59:11. Finished 24th of 52 competitors in the Centennial Olympic Games with a time of 4:01:18. 4th - 20km Olympic Trials. 6th - Pan-Am Walk Cup 20km, Manaus, Brazil.
1995: #1 US - 50km, #1 US - 20k - US Nat'l Champion 5,000m(Indoors), 20km & 50km Walks, in times of 1:24:46 and 3:59:46. 6th - Pan-Am Games 50km Walk, 3:59:26, in Argentina. 40th - World Walk Cup 20km, 1:25:54, Beijing, China.
1994: #1 US - 50km, #1 US - 20k - US Nat'l Champion at 15km, 20km, 2Hr & 50km Walks. Set 4 US Records including the 20km Track and the 50km. 7th - Goodwill Games 20km Walk, St. Petersburg, Russia. 2nd - US Indoor 5,000m. 14th - Pan-Am Walk Cup, Atlanta.
1993: #1 US - 20km - US Nat'l Champion 5,000m(Indoors), 20km & 30km Walks. 18th of 47 Competitors in the World Championships 20km Walk, Stuttgart, Germany. 47th - World Walk Cup 20km, Monterrey, Mexico.
1992: #1 US - 20km - US Nat'l Champion & Olympic Trials winner 20km Walk. 30th of 47 Competitors in Barcelona Olympic Games 20km Walk.
1991: #2 US - 20 km Walk - US Olympic Festival Champion. 3rd - US World Cup Trials. 67th - World Walk Cup 20km, San Jose, USA.
1990: 5th - USA Indoor 5,000m. 7th - USA 20km Championships. 2nd - US Olympic Festival.
1989: 6th - USA 20km Championships.
1988: 18th - Olympic Trials 20km.
1987: 11th - USA 20km Championships