Born April 14, 1964 in Sacramento, Ca 6-3/1.90m 175lbs./79kg Shorecrest HS, Seattle, Wa '82 Western Washington '87 PRs (outdoor): 20kmW 1:24:26.9 '94 (AR-track) 2 HourW 26,661m (AR-track) 25kmW 1:51:43.3 (AR-track) 30kmW 2:14:31 '93 (AR-road) 50kmW 3:55:39 '94 (AR-road) PR (indoor): 5000W 20:01.88 '94 Major Meets: 1987 11)USA 20kmW 1988 dnf)Olympic Trials 20kmW 1989 6)USA 20kmW 1990 5)USA Indoor 5000W 7)USA 20kmW 1991 3)U.S. Trials 20kmW 67)World Walk Cup 20kmW 1992 dnf)Pan-Am Walk Cup 20kmW 1)Olympic Trials 20kmW 30)Olympic Games 20kmW 1993 1)USA Indoor 5000W 47)World Walk Cup 20kmW 1)USA 20kmW 17)World Championships 20kmW 1994 2)USA Indoor 5000W 1)USA 20kmW 1)USA 50kmW 14)Pan-Am Walk Cup 20kmW 1995 1)USA Indoor 5000W dnf)Pan-Am Games 20kmW 6)Pan-Am Games 50kmW 1)US World Walk Cup Trials 20kmW 40)World Walk Cup 20kmW 1)USA 20kmW dnf)World Championships 50kmW 1996 1)Olympic Trials 50kmW 4)Olympic Trials 20kmW 24)Olympic Games 50kmW 10)Pan-Am Walk Cup 20kmW
Some like it hot. That's the case for Allen James, America's top racewalker. 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."
He won the national title at 20K, but opted to represent the U.S. in the 50K at the World Championships (no other American man made the qualifying standards in the walks). Feeling he was in the best shape of his life, he still ran into problems in Sweden when U.S. officials mistakenly declared him in the 20K. "I scrambled at the last minute when I found out I was entered," he says.
James missed the birth of his second child to compete in Gothenburg, but he came home with little to show for his effort. A groin injury forced him to drop out of the big race. "To have the baby born and miss that, then drop out of the race was a real letdown," he admits.
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 racewalking. 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 since 1992 he has held onto the number one spot there.
James works as an occupation data analyst for Shorewood Packaging. He and his wife, Laura, have two daughters, Teisha, age 5, and Denae, still short of 2. Strongly religious, James often wore his walking gear under his church clothes when he lived in California, so he could walk the 17 miles home from the service every Sunday.
Coached by Bohdan Bulakowski -- seventh in the 1980 Olympic 20K for Poland -- James prepared for the 1996 campaign by training at altitude. After winning the 50km trials in March, he sustained a minor muscle pull. That hampered him a bit in the 20km Trials in June, though he had planned to train through that event anyway. "I was getting a feel for the course," he explains of his fourth-place finish. "You have to pick your races. That wasn't one of the highlight races that I was choosing to peak for."
The future is something of a question mark for James. He and his wife are expecting their third child in July. The walking could go on the back burner. "I don't think it's worth it unless you can train full-time. I'm reconsidering my own priorities for the rest of my life. I have a family and other concerns. I've put in a lot for the sport and I love the sport. It's my passion."