Mark Goodman: Walking tall — and fast

  • Photo courtesy Mark Goodman

    Mark Goodman is all smiles after winning the Haena to Hanalei 8-mile walk on June 29.

When Mark Goodman found himself trailing four others in the early miles of the Haena to Hanalei 8 mile walk on June 29, he figured maybe this was not his year.

Maybe he would not be first across the finish line.

“I was starting to think negative, ‘I’m not going to win this time. I’m not going to win.’”

He didn’t quit. He pressed on in this race that he has pretty much dominated over the last decade, a race he has won 10 times. And yes, it’s walking, but it’s racing.

And as the miles passed, Goodman gained. And gained.

He hovered behind the leaders, for a reason.

“It makes people nervous,” he said, laughing.

The Kilauea man passed those out in front one by one and slowly opened distance between himself and his pursuers. At 6 feet, 2 inches tall, his strides are steady and strong.

Yet, he knew he didn’t have control. Not yet. He was working hard, even struggling, as he pushed the pace.

Along the way, he knew he had to shift his mindset.

“I’m going to win. I’m going to win this time,” he thought.

But miles remained …

•••

Goodman has been walking far and fast for years. He’s a familiar sight on Kahiliholo Road in Kilauea and likes to sing the words to the Glenn Campbell hit song, “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

“I’ve been walkin’ these streets so long, singing the same old song.”

His commitment to walking began in 1981, when he lived in Laguna Beach, Calif.

The former bond trader arrived on Kauai 16 years ago in search of a new start, a new life. He found what he was after — building a career as a real estate agent.

He takes his walking seriously, too.

When he’s in training, he covers about 25 miles a week. Walking, he told TGI in a previous interview, gives him that feeling he could go on and on and on.

“The more you do, the more you can do, physically and mentally, too,” he said. “The body is made to move.”

•••

With the lead in hand, Goodman was tiring as he endured the heat and “tremendous” humidity.

“I had to dig really deep, more than I ever have, into my being, to find the strength to finish,” he said.

He refused to look back, just yet. Some say you never should. Others say, look back so you know who’s behind you and where they are and most important, whether they’re gaining.

Goodman, once he was in front, didn’t want to know. Not yet.

On the climb up Lumahai, he was hurting, but that mantra kept coming to him, and with it he overcame the physical pain and took charge mentally.

“I’m going to win, I’m going to win, I’m going to win.”

Finally, when the course flattened out and he turned onto Weke Road, he glanced back to see if anyone was close. He didn’t see anyone. He figured he had it and didn’t look back again.

He did, but it was closer than he expected — or liked.

Goodman crossed in 1 hour, 33 minutes and 34 seconds. Ross Talarico of El Cerrito, Calif., pulled to within 17 seconds, 1:33:51.

He didn’t know his competition had crept back. No idea.

He was glad he didn’t.

“If I had looked back, I would have become fearful and I would have lost,” he said.

“Literally and figuratively, I don’t like to look back,” he said. “Turned out, because I didn’t look back, I won.”

As a reward, he received a nice teak bowl and a gift certificate for dinner.

But the pride part is what motivates him.

“I was proud of myself,” he said.

•••

When TGI walked along with Goodman in 2015, here is what was reported:

Then, there are those days he’s hoofing it, focused and determined, and a tourist slows to a stop and asks for directions.

Goodman and his size 13 shoes keep moving ahead. The driver of the car has to keep driving to keep up.

Few on foot can match Goodman’s pace.

Sometimes, a friend will decide to join him. After all, a nice walk on a sunny day sounds pretty good — until they meet up with Goodman. Usually it takes one time, at most twice, and they say no more. Maybe this isn’t so much fun, they think.

“I’ll just meet you back at home,” they’ll say, turning around well before the turning point a few miles away.

So nearly always, Goodman goes it alone. And no headphones, either. Just a man and his drive within.

There are those days that the miles seem to fly by, literally vanish. He’ll find that walker’s zone and suddenly realize he’s covered miles and didn’t even know it.

“It’s like a wonderful blackout,” he says, smiling. “The highlight is when you’re walking and all of a sudden the miles just pass and you didn’t realize how far you went.”

This isn’t all for fun. Goodman likes to walk fast — and he likes to win. He remembers his first year of the Haena to Hanalei 8-mile race and he was walking with a group of people. Others were slowing down, so Goodman walked ahead, then turned around to rejoin them.

“I thought, ‘I can probably win this race.’ And I did. It was fun.”

He took first place in the Haena to Hanalei walking division for eight straight years before coming in second this year. His training, he said, wasn’t quite where it should have been.

“Right near the end I just kind of pooped out,” he said. “I was grateful I was able to finish.”

•••

Goodman said his 11th Haena to Hanalei 8-mile walk win was “a bitch.”

“This was by far the most difficult,” he said.

His training wasn’t what he would like in the last year, as he had to dedicated himself more to his real estate career.

“I was not diligently persistent in my exercise,” he said.

At 62, he takes pride in being fit and holding his own against younger competitors at Haena to Hanalei, pretty much his one race.

While walking has always been there, seven years ago Goodman said he had to “reinvent myself” and find a new business. Real estate was something he could do well. Still, as a newcomer, it was tough breaking in.

He loved the sense of freedom that came with a fresh start.

“One thing, starting over, every day is a new day. You just keep showing up every day. That’s the majority of the challenge, to just keep showing up. It’s not easy. It isn’t. But you take what you develop and go with it.”

Goodman has been through his share of hard times. Yet he refuses to let them weigh him down, hold him back, cause him to falter. Yes, there is bad in life. And there is good.

He believes people tend to carry too much baggage wherever they go.

“Some travel light,” he said. “Some travel heavy. The past is the past. Looking behind you and becoming fearful and letting it alter the present doesn’t do you any good.

Instead, Goodman talks about “taking the past experiences, building on that foundation, and building strength to go forward.”

Don’t let fear stop you, he said. Fear is the killer of goals. It’s the squasher of dreams.

The human body, the human mind, can do far more than people imagine, he said.

Goodman doesn’t want to find out he didn’t do all he could because he was afraid to try.

So he does.

“We don’t know what we’re capable of doing until we actually go out and do it,” he said.

•••

More from that 2015 interview:

But most often, he’s out in front, alone. It is the only race he enters on Kauai. One year, another man stayed with Goodman for several miles.

“I couldn’t shake him, so I had to think,” Goodman said. “I started to talk. My talking was meaningless to me. I didn’t lose my focus. But he started talking about his daughter. That offset his thinking and he fell behind.

“It was interesting. I won,” he said, with a bit of pride.

Key to race walking success, he said, isn’t your legs.

“This is the key right here,” he said, pointing to his arms, pumping back and forth, rapid fire.

Another piece of Goodman advice: On downhills, keep your legs bent. It stops the strain on the knees.

Finally, breathing. Blowing out is what counts.

“Don’t think about breathing in,” he said. “Just blow out. Because you automatically breathe in. That’s the key.”

In his life, he estimates he’s walked about 37,000 miles, and notes that Earth is 24,900 miles around.

“I think I’ve walked around the world 1 1/2 times,” he said.

The thought of that accomplishment, he says, makes him feel pretty good.

“It’s a gift,” he said. “And you have to remain grateful.”

•••

Goodman is excited as he recounts his victory.

“First I just thought, ‘Well, I’m not going to win this time.’ But as I gained and got more energy and strength, I thought, ‘I’m going to win.’ I kept blowing out, breathing in. When I went up Lumahai and started coming down, I really had to gear up and overcome my body.

“I think it was my best victory,” he said.

There is a pause, then he added, “I freaking did it! I was determined.”

People have asked him since his win if this is his last year at Haena to Hanalei. Will he return to defend his title?

This annoys Goodman.

Absolutely he’ll be back.

“What a terrible way to think. Don’t tell me this is my last year,” he said. “I’m not going to give up. I’m going to keep doing it.”

When people get older, they sometimes label themselves as to what they can and can’t do. Fear and doubt gain a foothold.

Goodman sees what he can do. He feels young and healthy. He wakes up each morning looking forward to what’s ahead. The unknown is exciting.

“Keep moving, keep active and keep vital,” he said. “Don’t think about the numbers.”

And most important of all?

Keep walking.

•••

Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or bbuley@thegardenisland.com.

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