She’s had water balloons thrown at her (they missed) and been the target of squirt guns. As a racewalker, Anita Macias-Howard has learned to take those incidents in stride, so to speak.

“Racewalking is just kind of funny looking,” the Edina 60-year-old said.

Strict rules govern racewalking form: the front knee has to be straight when the foot touches the ground, one foot must be on the ground at all times. Gaining speed requires the racewalker to drop a hip and push off as she steps, which creates the funny-looking “hip wiggle.”

“Most people would rather run if they could,” Macias-Howard said.

Macias-Howard was once a runner herself. She began in college, just after the passage of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, including sports. Accommodations for women’s sports were still so rudimentary that the first year the team didn’t even have lockers.

Macias-Howard kept running after college, through the 1970s and 1980s. That ended after a Grandma’s Marathon that left her knee so swollen she couldn’t bend it.

“I’ve seen runners that had chronic problems and I thought, I don’t want to go there,” she said.

She tried walking, but wasn’t consistent about it. Then one day she couldn’t button her jeans and knew she would either have to buy new jeans or change her habits. She watched what she ate and rededicated herself to walking, eventually building up speed.

One day about eight years ago she saw a poster for a racewalking clinic. She signed up and soon found herself connected to a racewalking community (www.twincitiesracewalkers.org) that practices the sport in two different Twin Cities locations. She improved the form and techniques she had been trying to learn by watching “stick figures on the Internet.”

Macias-Howard doesn’t consider herself a competitive person, but she found herself missing the challenge of pushing herself in a race. So she was happy to learn her racewalking group competes in track and field events. “I don’t have to win all the time, not at all, but that adds an element to it — a level of adrenaline, of camaraderie, of having a team.”

She competes in the state Senior Games every year, as well as the state’s U.S. Track and Field competition. She has attended two previous National Senior Games and will participate in this year's national games in the Twin Cities (July 3-16).

“I think with the senior games, it’s an older group, and these are people that are comfortable in their skin,” Macias-Howard said. “There’s a level of support that really wasn’t there before when I was younger. We want each other to do well. I’m going to try to beat the woman in front of me racewalking, but on other hand I really am rooting for her to have a good time.” □