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,"
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
at the world championships in San Sebastian, Spain, in 2005.