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Cover of the Fall/Winter 2003 SFSU Magazine. Photo of Professor and talk radio show host, Michael Krasny.

 

SFSU Magazine Online, Spring/Summer 2003, Volume 3, Number 2.

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Alumni & FriendsWorld champion racewalker Jack Bray in actionon the track at the College of Marin.

 

Walking the Walk

Jack Bray (M.A., '89), a world champion racewalker, is on the phone from his home in Marin County, where he has just returned after setting a new American record for his age group in the 5,000-meter road race at Kingsport, Tenn. At 71, Bray competes among 70- to 74-year-olds. But if you were to see him, he insists, you would not believe he is a septuagenarian. "I look like a chiseled body builder," he says.

As if to dispel any doubts, Bray invited SFSU Magazine to meet him at the track at College of Marin, where he trains and teaches racewalking. Bray shows up wearing a turquoise warm-up suit over Spandex shorts and a tank top. If not quite Charles Atlas, he is impressively tight and toned. At 6-foot-2 and 158 pounds, Bray has long, sinewy legs, a buff chest, and hardly an inch to pinch except for a slight waistline bulge that he blames on a weakness for Ben & Jerry's.

Bray attributes his enviable physique and good health in large part to racewalking, the sport that has won him a drawer full of medals. A Broadway dancer and choreographer before he came to San Francisco State to study gerontology, Bray is ranked number one in his age group in the United States. In 1998, he set a world record for the 3,000 meter indoor race in Boston, slicing 81 seconds off the old record of 17:28.

Bray champions racewalking with evangelical zeal. He says it is the ideal sport for baby boomers and beyond, providing all of the cardiovascular benefits of running but none of the injuries. Bray was an avid marathoner until giving up distance running 17 years ago because of the toll it took on his body. In 1992, Bray founded the Marin Race Walkers, which he says is the country's largest racewalking club.

Despite gaining in popularity, racewalking remains one of track's least appreciated events, eliciting snickers for the awkward way the hips rotate from front to back. Bray finds the butt-wiggle jokes tiresome. "If you're doing it properly, it's not funny at all. It's smooth and beautiful," he says.

Bray proves his point by racewalking a few hundred yards, his wife of 14 years, Sue, watching from the sidelines. He is remarkably fast and fluid. Though racewalking's rules require that one foot be on the ground at all times, Bray's feet seem to hardly touch the surface.

If anything, Bray is just getting warmed up. His sights are set on smashing another record
at the world championships in San Sebastian, Spain, in 2005.

-- Adrianne Bee

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