Birthday: October 15th, 1961
Current Residence: Kenosha, WI
Hometown: Kenosha, WI
College: Gateway Tech, University of Wisconsin, Parkside
10 km - 44:42
20 km - 1:33:48
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.
Not her best race, but favorite internationally was the 1992 Olympics. At the time, Mary Decker’s former coach, Dick Brown, coached her. The race plan was to go out hard with the leaders. While only able to walk with the lead pack for a short while, Lawrence felt exhilarated just to be there. Then she hit the wall and felt like dropping out. She couldn’t; her parents had purchased really expensive tickets in the stadium instead of watching the race for free on the road. As much as she wanted to quit, she didn’t. When she entered the stadium, the fans were cheering for her like she was in first place. Goosebumps came over Lawrence, who didn’t believe she deserved the cheers.
Lawrence learned two valuable lessons that day. Had she given in to the fatigue, she never would have experienced the joy of entering the stadium. She learned to never drop out of a race. While sticking her neck way out with the lead walkers didn’t pay off, she did learn the value of putting your neck out a little. Up until that point she felt she raced too conservatively. By shaking it up a little, she learned to be more aggressive.
It’s a shame race walking is not prominently featured indoors as in Lawrence’s day. It’s possible that Lawrence was too successful for race walking’s own good. In early Nineties the indoor track circuit had race walking as one of the events. Lawrence remembers how cool it was to be a competitor with Diane Dixon. That’s right, competitor. Competing in the Grand Prix, you were given points for placing in Grand Prix events as well as setting records. This cross competition was great for race walking. It really got our names out in front of other track and field fans. The first year they included it, Lawrence got really sick, but the last two years she won it. Won it all. She beat out the best runners in the world for a prize of $12,000 each year. A lot of people must have complained, because they dropped the race walk from the Grand Prix and then from other races as well. Lawrence enjoyed “taking lime light away from the runners.”
Late in her career, Lawrence learned another valuable lesson. One our younger walkers need to learn early. Going into the 1996 Olympic Trials, Lawrence was far from favored. The day was hot and humid, but Lawrence had a secret weapon: mental training. During 1995 and 1996, Lawrence trained her mind as well as her body. Lawrence says, “The power of the mind is amazing.” She learned that when you prepare the mind to race, you can do amazing things. She claims not to remember the heat and humidity by the end of the race. She does however remember making her third Olympic Team.
n between her busy racing schedule, Lawrence’s modelesque looks landed her on the cover of publications like Walking Magazine. She claims her best years are still coming, although Lawrence has difficultly balancing training with her busy career teaching clinics, giving teleclasses for walking over a 10-week period to people all over the world via the phone, as well as promoting healthy eating and fitness for children.
2001 3rd - 1:37:57 2000 3rd - 1:33:48
1998 3rd - 46:41 1997 1st - 46:46 1996 2nd - 45:32 1995 3rd - 45:03 1994 4th - 47:16 1993 2nd - 45:55 1992 1st - 44:42 1991 1st - 45:29 1990 1st - 45:34 1989 3rd - 47:46 1988 1st - 46:44 1987 2nd - 47:33 1986 2nd - 49:06
1997 3000M - 13:14.24 1994 3000M - 13.13.20 1993 3000M - 12:35.79 1992 3000M - 12:47.5
2001 10K - 46:48 1997 15K - 1:13:24 1997 5K - 22:39 10K - 46:45.36 1996 5K - 21:15 10K - 46:05 10K Olympic Trials 46:05 1993 10K - 45:55 1992 Olympic Trials - 45:46 10K - 45:46 1991 10K - 46:06.36 1990 10K - 46:14.4 1987 15K - 1:13:40 1986 10K - 50:28.86 20K - 1:46:07 1984 10K - 51:00.3
10K Olympic Games
1996 – 20 th - 45:32 - Atlanta, USA
1992 - 26 th - 48:22 - Barcelona, Spain
20K Olympic Games
2000 - 44 th - 1:47:20 - Sydney, Australia
10K World Cup
1991- 15 th - 46:13 - San Jose, USA
1989 - 41 st - 48:10 - L'Hospitalet, Spain
1987 31 st - 48:16 - New York, USA
10K Goodwill Games
1998 - 5 th - 47:36.97 - Goodwill Games
10K World Championships
1995 - 24 th - 45:03 – Goteborg, Sweden
1993 - 37 th - 48:53 – Stuttgart, Germany
1991 - 19 th - 45:58 - Tokyo, Japan
1987 - 20 th - 47:31 - Rome, Italy
20K World Championships
2001 - 19 th - 1:37:57 - Edmonton, Canada
10K Pan Am Games
1991 - 2 nd - 46:51.53 - Havana, Cuba
10K Pan Am Cup
1988 - 3 rd – unknown time - Mar del Plata, Argentina
1986 - 9 th - 49:06 - St. Leonard, Canada
1985 - 29 th - 50:29 - St. John's Isle of Man
1983 - 51 st - 53:49 - Bergen, Norway