By Rob Levey
Seacoast Scene, May 29, 2013
Jay with wife Carolyn. In addition to his love for racewalking,
Diener is equally committed to protecting nature, which explains
his involvement with the Great Bay Stewards since 2003.
It is not often you meet someone who can walk faster than many people run, but you probably have not met competitive racewalker Jay Diener. Aware many folks have not heard of his sport, although it is growing in popularity on the Seacoast, Diener playfully refers to racewalking as "the shunted-aside sibling to the running community."
"It is interesting to be the recipient of the strange looks and comments that I get when racewalking," he said. "Most people are friendly and supportive, but there are also people who just don't get it who say, `Why don't you just run?'"
For Diener, though, the temptation to run simply does not exist, as he switched to racewalking in 2003 when problems with one of his feet made running painful. "Walking was not painful at all, so to stay active I signed up for a racewalking clinic in Cambridge Mass.," he added. "I've been racewalking ever since."
While you are sure to see Diener participating in the competitive race-walking division at any of the races within the popular Seacoast Road Race Series, which he helps organize, you can also find him along the ocean before the sun comes up.
"I train about five to six days a week, usually at about 4 am, which is the only time I can reliably get out every day," he said. "One of the nice aspects about working out so early is that I usually see more critters -- deer, rabbits, fox, and skunks -- than cars. It also enables me to be back in time to get the coffee going before my wife wakes up."
Jay handing out awards at Great Bay 5K.
In addition to his love for race-walking, Diener is equally committed to protecting nature, which explains his involvement with the Great Bay Stewards since 2003. Formed in 1995, the mission of the Stewards is to protect and preserve the vitality of the Great Bay estuarine system through education, land protection, research and care of the Great Bay.
Current President of the Board of Trustees since 2011, Diener said the Stewards serve as a prime example of what passionate people can accomplish. "The Stewards are a great group of people with different backgrounds and skills, but with a common passion -- Great Bay," he said.
As for what attracts him to the Great Bay he noted it is "a gorgeous body of water" as well as "a unique estuary which is where fresh water and salt water meet."
"It is an incredible habitat for water creatures and land creatures and it is a great natural facility for kayaking, fishing, boating, hiking, and birding," he added.
According to Diener, the time he has spent training and racing on the roads has enhanced his appreciation of the natural world, too. "I really enjoy my workouts that take me by the water or through stands of tall trees," he said.
Never one to "walk" away from responsibility, Diener is also chairman of the Hampton Conservation Commission of which he has been a part since 2001. "It's about enforcing wetlands ordinances, but we've also been instrumental in helping the Town purchase or get conservation easements on a 5-acre pond and a 120-acre farm," he added.
Changes are afoot, however, for Diener, as he said he recently made the difficult decision to leave the Great Bay Stewards at the end of his current term in October to help form the Seabrook-Hamptons Estuary Alliance. "While there are quite a few organizations that work to help us understand and improve Great Bay, there is far less focus on the Seabrook-Hampton estuary," he noted.
As for his immediate and long-term future goals, he said he plans to continue "to help make good things happen."
"I get a great deal of satisfaction working with other people to achieve whatever the goal is —- be it helping to keep our environment healthy and vibrant, raising funds for non-profits through road races, helping people to stay fit and healthy, or even teaching people how to racewalk," he said.
Diener also possesses other interests, too, including wood-turning, cooking, kayaking with his wife along the coast and on nearby lakes, and snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter, although he acknowledges he does have one problem.
"I don't have enough time for those things," he said with a smile.
Racewalker Abby Dunn from Maine with Jay. Never
one to "walk" away from responsibility, Diener is also
chairman of the Hampton Conservation Commission
of which he has been a part since 2001.