Health & Wellness

The World’s First Ironman Winner Walks Among Us

After a full day at work, and after the dinner table is cleared, most people put their feet up. Gordon Haller puts his into running shoes. Not many athletes work out at 10 p.m., but Gordon isn’t like everybody else. He’s an Ironman, and he has been since he won the first competition in Hawaii in 1978.

Not only did Gordon win; he also helped create the event. He was running the Honolulu Marathon in 1977 and realized his body hadn’t fully recovered from a recent race, so he stopped running where a friend happened to be watching. That friend knew of Gordon’s typical three-part workout routine, and he told him about plans for a new sporting event.

“He said there was a race invented for me with swimming, biking and running. Then I saw a notice in the paper about a meeting to talk about the race. I joined the planning team, and we took the Waikiki Roughwater Swim, the Sea Spree Festival bike race and the Honolulu Marathon and put them together,” Gordon said. The Ironman was born.

“I’ve always lived an Ironman lifestyle,” Gordon explained. He’s kept a training log since 1969 and four decades later, he still works out an average of 1.5 hours a day.

“At first, my training log was a tool to help me be faster and healthier, but it evolved to become a journal. It’s satisfying to record each workout, and it helps me remember where I was when significant things happened in my life,” Gordon said, adding that a training log can help track what you eat, how much you sleep, your heart rate, weight, illnesses, body fat, blood pressure and more.

As a result of his lifelong focus on fitness, Gordon feels he has more energy and endurance than most people, which he says helps him at work. He balances his athletic pursuits with his full-time job as a programmer analyst at the Walmart corporate office in Bentonville, Arkansas.

“I design my workouts to maximize my performance, and I plan my tasks to do the same for my work,” Gordon said. “When I start on something, I see it to the finish.” That explains why he’s still participating in marathons and Ironman events more than 37 years after he earned the first Ironman title. In fact, he often does two Ironman competitions a year, inspiring others with his seemingly endless stamina.

“I consider marathons a time to do soul searching. I know what I’m made of and I just keep going. If you think you might not make it, you might not,” Gordon said. “It is interesting to me to see how I’ll cope with whatever comes up. We can have high winds, rain, humidity, heat, tacks on the road, hills, rough or cold water. It’s fun to meet other competitors and hear their stories. It’s just an amazing experience every time I do it.”


Recently featured in Sports Illustrated, Gordon represents athleticism at its finest. He discovered his love of running in the first grade and has been setting the pace ever since. 

“Our teacher didn’t hear the recess bell, and none of us was brave enough to tell her. She let us run around the school one lap, so we made a race of it and I was second. My friend beat me, and that got my competitive juices up,” Gordon recalled. He fully realized his abilities six years later.

“One day in seventh-grade PE, we had to run three laps for leaving towels out in the locker room. My friend ran ahead, but after a lap, I decided he wouldn’t finish first and I just edged him at the finish line. I joined the track team and discovered I could run longer than everyone else, even if I couldn’t run faster in the sprints,” Gordon said.

That competitive spirit runs in Gordon’s family, along with a shared passion for health. He met his wife, Beth, through running and they work out often together. She’s a triathlete, herself. Gordon says his son Ryan “rides his bike everywhere” and his daughter, Jessica, manages a sporting goods store and loves outdoor activities. Gordon’s older daughter, Kristen, is a yoga instructor. Clearly, Gordon has a way of positively influencing those around him – including his fellow Walmart associates.

“I encourage them to do triathlons, run races, just get out and do something,” Gordon said, adding that he shuns the elevator at work and coaxes others to do the same.

“I rode it today for the first time in about five years and only because I was with a group of people,” he said. 

Gordon’s been taking the stairs to his office at Walmart for eight years, and he says he still enjoys the challenge of learning new technology through his work. The love of a challenge appears to run in his veins, which you might expect from someone best known as the world’s first Ironman. 

The Ironman World Championship will take place in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on Oct. 10. Read more about Gordon Haller in these recent articles from Sports Illustrated and ESPN.

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Sustainability

One Company is Helping Keep Walmart and Our Communities in the ‘Green’

Glenn H. Garrett set a standard for protecting community waterways long before “going green” became a common refrain.

In 1996, after witnessing the damage left behind by hurricanes earlier that year, the disabled Marine Corps veteran launched his own business, Retention Pond Services, in his hometown of Wilmington, N.C.

The storms had destroyed the basins that hold stormwater and they were overflowing. Glenn decided to do something about it. Luckily, four years in the Marine Corps – from 1980 to 1984 – prepared him for the hard work ahead.

“It’s not glamorous, not high tech. It’s done with good, old-fashioned manpower,” he said of his business.

Glenn developed a relationship with Walmart in 2002 when a store in Wilmington had a runoff issue in the parking lot. Walmart’s construction division called the state’s stormwater regulators and asked for a recommendation on whom to hire for help. Retention Pond Services was their answer.

When the same issue happened again, this time at another store, Walmart decided to expand the maintenance procedures developed with Glenn’s company. From there, it went nationwide.

Retention Pond Services now repairs, maintains and services stormwater systems for 1,200 Walmart stores and Sam’s Clubs across the U.S. The goal is to help Walmart meet rules and regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency and reduce the risk of water pollution.

“I remember my first meeting with Walmart [representatives], and they started talking about being ‘green’. I had never heard anyone talk about green – being environmentally conscious,” he said, adding that the retailer encourages suppliers to be responsible by leading by example.

He didn’t realize it at the time, but Glenn and his company would play a major role in bringing that to fruition. He said Walmart has become a standard bearer of stormwater maintenance for big-box retailers throughout the U.S.

Retention Pond Services began with 16 employees. Fast-forward 20 years and it now employs as many as 250 workers each year, including Glenn and three other senior leaders, with clients ranging from retailers to municipalities. The number fluctuates with the seasons, but one thing remains constant – there are always military veterans like Glenn on staff. Several veterans started in junior positions and moved up through the ranks.

The business was hiring veterans before Walmart introduced its Veterans Welcome Home Commitment in 2013, but Glenn said the initiative is a great encouragement for suppliers and veterans alike. “It goes back to [Walmart] recognizing our service and appreciating what we’ve done,” he said. As a veteran himself, Glenn knows that the skills and can-do attitude learned in the military easily transfer over to civilian jobs. Glenn takes pride in his team – “I’m only as good as my worst employee” – and in protecting the environment. Much of that pride stems from his childhood in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.

“My grandfather used to tell me how great fishing was – about catching massive fish. When I was growing up, there were no fish. The bay was essentially dead, killed by pollution and runoff.”

In the 1970s, Maryland got involved in a save-the-bay campaign, and the federal government’s Water Quality Act followed in 1987. Those actions helped return fishing in the bay to its former glory.

Caring for the environment comes at a cost, whether it be time or money, but the results are well worth it. As U.S. businesses continue to grow, Glenn and his team are ready to step in and protect our communities.

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Health & Wellness

A New Way of Working Together for Dietary Supplement Safety

Whether it’s a vitamin or mineral, tablet or even energy bar, the majority of adults in the U.S. take one or more dietary supplements either every day or occasionally.

These supplements provide extra nutrients when one’s diet is lacking or when certain health conditions cause the development of a deficiency in vitamins, minerals, or other dietary substances.

From herbals and botanicals to amino acids, probiotics, enzymes, and others, there are a wide variety of supplements available today that allow consumers to play a more active role in their health and nutrition.

But the rapid growth and expansion of products in the marketplace has called into question their quality and safety. In addition, the differing quality seals and verification marks on product labels can lead to confusion. That’s why we are excited to announce that Walmart is working, in collaboration with the Natural Products Association, GNC and other leading retailers, to create the Supplement Safety & Compliance Initiative (SSCI).

What is the Supplement Safety & Compliance Initiative?

SSCI brings some of the largest retailers, raw material manufacturers and suppliers, dietary supplement manufacturers and other stakeholders together to assist in strengthening safeguards and helping to ensure regulatory compliance from harvest to retailer shelf.


Why is SSCI important to Walmart?

Manufacturing practices vary widely across the dietary supplement industry. Although all of our private label – aka store brand – suppliers must have a third-party audit and certification, SSCI will ensure they meet our stringent expectations and a recognized high standard through the supply chain.

The goal of SSCI is to recognize and help ensure various safety and manufacturing standards provide greater assurance throughout the supply chain. Agreeing upon common standards is a critical piece in the initiative and a process that is proven to be effective with enhancing consumer safety.

SSCI is a bold step forward for the dietary supplement industry. We look forward to having additional retailers and others join this effort to support the enhancement of the authenticity and safety of dietary supplements and ultimately improve the health and nutrition of consumers everywhere.

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Opportunity

Retired Store Manager Fashions Second Career Out of Dreams and Opportunity

Sometimes it’s not enough to follow your dreams. You also need someone else to see your potential.

My career at Walmart was a dream – so unanticipated! And that set me up to follow yet another dream. After nearly 20 years, I retired Feb. 17 as manager of supercenter #2914 in Massillon, Ohio, to start my own business as a fashion stylist – something I’ve been passionate about for years – and to spend more time with my precious family.

I have long had an interest in fashion, starting back when my mother was a seamstress and would create her own designs as I was growing up. Most of my wardrobe was handmade by her! I always loved how wearing something special made me feel. Working at Walmart, particularly with women, rekindled a passion in me to witness the impact of dressing well. Increased confidence, better communication, direct eye contact – we all know how that feels. Feeling positive about ourselves can be transformational.

My retail career had simple beginnings in 1997, when I was a stay-at-home mom with five small children in a single-income family. That August I was looking to get a little extra money for Christmas and applied for the first clock-in-and-out job of my life. Walmart hired me as a temporary associate despite my having dropped out of college to start a family and having zero experience in retail. I never would have dreamed I’d take a job stocking store shelves overnight and end up managing 500 people.

This company backed me every step of the way, seeing and believing in a potential I didn't recognize. One of my first store managers took a significant interest in challenging and pushing me to see opportunities that existed. It taught me how important the human touch can be.

I remember one young man who was doing a really good job as an hourly supervisor at my store. Not long after we talked about his potential, he put his job in jeopardy by clocking in late on multiple days. Instead of giving up on him, his direct supervisor asked him what was going on. He shared that his car had broken down, and with no other transportation he’d had to walk the four miles to and from the store. After hearing this, I bought him a bicycle to help put him back on the right track. He ended up going into a management program and is doing really well today.

As for me, my story has come full circle. Walmart not only gave me the acumen and process to run my own business, it also gave my husband and me the financial security to start this second phase of our lives. My baby was in kindergarten when I started my career, and now all my children are grown and college-educated. Freedom in my schedule allows me to be a stay-at-home grandma to five grandchildren.

Having been at the Massillon supercenter for the last four years, it was bittersweet to turn over my keys and the responsibility. But, I’m excited to continue being a cheerleader from the outside. The people I hired are going to go even further than I did with the belief they can have limitless careers.

Photos courtesy of Massillon Independent.

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Business

‘Outside the Box’ Breaks Down Blockchain

“Blockchain” is one of the latest business buzzwords making its way around the internet. But this is one word you won’t want to ignore.

Technology is improving the retail experience in ways you may have never imagined. And when it comes to food safety, we can see the way of the future. In Episode 2 of our podcast, Outside the Box, our guests will help break down how blockchain is improving supply chain – and in some cases, saving lives.

“Breaking Down Blockchain” features Brigid McDermott, Vice President of Business Development for Blockchain at IBM. She’s responsible for driving the growth of blockchain, an emerging platform that can radically improve banking, supply chain and other transaction networks. You’ll also hear from Frank Yiannas, Vice President of Food Safety at Walmart.

Outside the Box is our chance to bring together some of today’s most brilliant thought leaders, innovators and visionaries to talk about the retail industry and the roles it plays in society and the global economy.

Future episodes will explore topics such as “The Workforce of the Future,” where industry experts dissect the issues that will face employees in the coming years, and “U.S. Manufacturing, where we’ll talk to a business analyst, a merchandise supplier and a government official about the challenges and benefits of making products in the United States.

If you’re a business owner, an entrepreneur, a maker, a doer, a consumer – anyone! — this podcast is for you.

Learn more about the series and subscribe, and tell us what you think in the comments below.

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