U.S. National Champion Dave McGovern, world-class racewalker, makes impact with Team Challenge, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA); maintains Olympics dream (VIDEO) (EXCLUSIVE)

By Brian Flood ( @briansflood
on Mar 28, 2014 10:26 AM EDT
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The average sports fan probably doesn't know the name Dave McGovern.

In fact, the average fan probably doesn't know anything about the sport in which he has earned an incredible 14 National Championships for the United States. But that doesn't stop McGovern from doing what he does best—racewalking.

McGovern, one of nation’s most accomplished racewalkers and a 25-year veteran of the U.S. National Racewalk Team, has become the most productive racewalking coach and clinician in the nation.

Following the prime of his epic career, he has gone on to found his own coaching business—World Class Racewalking—and holds multiple coaching posts for Team Challenge, which is the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America’s endurance training and fundraising program. And it’s that role that delivers him his biggest source of pride—and hits very close to home.

It all started for McGovern in 1982, when he was a high school track star and was caught making fun of a racewalker on the team. His coach didn’t appreciate the teasing, and forced McGovern to participate in the racewalk for the remainder of the season as a form of punishment.

Racewalking, while huge in some countries, is relatively obscure in America. It’s a long-distance event that requires one foot to be in contact with the ground at all times. If both feet leave the ground, you are disqualified. It has been an Olympic sport since 1906.

BONUS: Upcoming Racewalk events

And it's racewalking that has changed McGovern’s life—and it has nothing to do with any of his championships. The sport enabled him to meet his wife, Loretta—herself an elite racewalker and coach—at one of his clinics. McGovern’s wife not only shares his passion for the unique sport, but has opened his eyes to two diseases that impact millions of lives on a daily basis.

Loretta McGovern suffers from colitis, an inflammation of the colon and/or large intestine. So when the CCFA reached out to McGovern, it was a no-brainer.

“Whenever Loretta was having a painful flare-up, I just felt completely helpless,” McGovern told Sports World News. “I got the call from Team Challenge and felt, ‘here is something I can do to help so my kids don’t have to suffer through this.’ I don’t want them to ever have to go through what Loretta has had to endure.”

Participants of Team Challenge raise funds for Crohn's and colitis research and patient services in exchange for training to take part in various half and full marathons throughout the world. The McGoverns, who have two young sons and are expecting their third child this summer, work very closely with the organization. Dave holds two posts—as the Long Island Running Coach and the National Team Head Coach—while Loretta is the Long Island Walking Coach.

Bonus: Team Challenge - Miami Half-Marathon 2014 (VIDEO)

In terms of his own competitive career, longevity has been McGovern’s greatest asset in the sport that has come to define him. He’s been racewalking for more than 30 years—competing at an extremely high level the entire time.

 “I never really had a coach tell me I could make an Olympics team, it wasn’t on my radar,” said McGovern, who has been on 20 International Teams, including seven World Cup and six Pan Am Cup teams. “I just wanted to see how fast I could get. I kept getting faster and then, in 1995 and '96, I got really fast and was ranked No. 1 in the U.S. by Track & Field News.”

McGovern continues to train for that elusive Olympic spot, but with his family life and coaching duties to balance, he is not sure if it will happen.

“I still have a shot and hope to make the next Olympic trials, he said. “One other track and field athlete—a hammer thrower—has competed in seven trials and I’d like to stand alone with eight. We’ll see how it goes.”

Regardless of whether or not he ever wins Olympic gold, McGovern has dedicated his life to a sport and a passion that has allowed him to travel the world, meet his wife and help train those who have generated more than $50 million over the past six years for Team Challenge and the CCFA. Oh yeah, and he has become a legend within his sport.

Not a bad punishment.

Click here for more information about Team Challenge

Click here to hire Dave as your private racewalking coach

Purchase "The Complete Guide to Marathon Walking" by Dave McGovern

Questions? Hit me on Twitter @briansflood

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