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One step at a time, this Johnson County man is keeping his competitive edge

David Eisenberg has always had a competitive streak. Through his career as lawyer, he worked to win by settling cases and making deals.

Sailing inspired Eisenberg to crisscross the country, competing in — and winning — various regattas. Even as a lifelong classical guitarist, he worked to play at the highest level.

At age 73, the Leawood resident is semi-retired, but he’s still competing. These days, his passion is the sport of race walking.

At the recent USA Track & Field Masters Indoor Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, Eisenberg won a gold medal in the 1,500-meter walk race and a silver in the 3,000 meter.

“Both times were personal bests for me,” said Eisenberg, who moved to Leawood in 1986 when he was a vice president at Sprint.

He considers the meet a warmup for the World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships, which will be held March 26 to April 1 in Toruń, Poland. Eisenberg will compete in the 70-74 age group.

USA Track & Field notes that race walking requires the participant to maintain contact “with the ground at all times and requires the leading leg to be straightened as the foot makes contact with the ground. It must remain straightened until the leg passes under the body.”

Race walkers combine speed and technique. Because it has less impact on the joints than running, it has become popular with older age groups for both its fitness and competitive benefits. Judging differs, too. While most running events are won by the fastest time, judges watch for the technique of the race walker. They look for fouls, which can disqualify a competitor.

Eisenberg had been a runner throughout his life but gave it up as he got older because of the toll it took on his body. He took up race walking after a 2020 summer trip to visit his sister and brother-in-law in Montreal.

Eisenberg and his brother-in-law headed out for an early morning walk at the base of Mount Royal. He found the 90-minute sojourn up and down the mountain inspiring.

“I loved it,” Eisenberg said. “In past years, I had run in local 5K races from time to time and found it difficult to avoid training injuries. This felt much better to me.”

On the way back to Kansas City, Eisenberg shared his experience with his wife Sandy, a former dancer and a big believer in exercise. She encouraged her husband to connect with Dr. Alan Poisner, a retired pharmacology professor and a world class race walker in Kansas City. Both Eisenberg and Poisner are members of the Jewish Community Center (The J), and connected at the gym.

“He told me about race walking and about the Heartland Racewalkers group based in metro Kansas City, which he led for many years,” Eisenberg said. “I joined the group, began learning what to do and how to train, and haven’t looked back.”

That was three years ago. Now Eisenberg is president of the Heartland group. However, he credits Poisner as his inspiration.

“Alan has been a wonderful teacher and has kept me on a good learning-curve over the past few years,” Eisenberg said. “On March 10, at the youthful age of 88, Alan set a new U.S. indoor record for the 1,500-meter race walk (ages 85-89), with a time that easily surpassed many of the very good walkers in younger age groups.”

The feeling is mutual between the two men.

“In my 38 years of racewalking, including three world championships, I have never seen a walker rise in competitive excellence as fast as David,” Poisner said. “I think that he will continue to garner athletic honors in the years ahead.”

Race walking is hard work, said Eisenberg, who usually trains six days a week, putting in about 40 miles. When the weather is nice, he walks outdoors on local trails, city streets and the track at Leawood Middle School.

In inclement weather, he trains on The J’s indoor track.

“One of my training days coincides with Heartland Racewalkers’ weekly clinic, which takes place every Saturday morning at The J. It includes stretching, a group walk, a cool down, and regular educational programs on training and technique.”

Eisenberg has been an avid competitor in various events, including the National Senior Games in Fort Lauderdale and the National State Games, which took place at Iowa State University last summer.

David Eisenberg, who won a medal at the Huntsman World Games in Utah, is surrounded by fellow race-walkers. From left, Maggie McCoy, Janice Kelble, Eisenberg, Martha McCarter, Pat Durkin.
David Eisenberg, who won a medal at the Huntsman World Games in Utah, is surrounded by fellow race-walkers. From left, Maggie McCoy, Janice Kelble, Eisenberg, Martha McCarter, Pat Durkin.

“One of my favorite results, however, was in a local 5K event held last Thanksgiving — the Kansas City Running Club’s Ward Parkway Thanksgiving Day run,” he said. “ My age division included 20 runners and me (the only walker). I finished fifth out of 21.”

The opportunity to go to Poland came at one event.

Last autumn, at the Huntsman World Games in Utah, race walker Norm Frable, recruited Eisenberg to be a member of the U.S. National Team event in Poland.

“This will be my first international event, and I’m looking forward to it,” said Eisenberg, who will participate in the 3,000 meter race walk and the 10 kilometer race walk. At the Poland events, competitors will be scored both individually and as a team.

For Eisenberg, winning medals is fun but there is more to his passion for race walking and the organization he now leads.

The oldest member, Fred Adams, is 89. And recently, a young Kansas City elite athlete, 11-year-old Corric Dunigan, joined the team to learn about race walking.

“One of my favorite things about Heartland Racewalkers is the people,” Eisenberg said. “It’s an interesting and diverse group of folks.