Active people who are itching to get off their treadmills and onto outdoor walking trails may want to look into race walking as an alternative low-impact workout.

Race walking, which long-time member Bruce Leasure describes as a “boutique sport,” has a local chapter, Twin Cities Race Walkers, that promotes year-round participation. Members range in age from 40-80 and participate at a wide variety of skill levels.

Some members race walk as a break from running, and others race walk when cross-country skiing season ends, Leasure said. “It’s one-third the impact of running,” he noted.

race walkers
Members of the Twin Cities Race Walkers turned out for one of their Wednesday hikes on May 4 around Lake Como. Pictured from left are Kathie Pugaczewski, Jeanne DeMartino, Bruno Bornsztein and Bruce Leasure. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Club member Will Loew-Blosser, 70, started race walking in his 50s and won a national championship in his age group in 2018. He described the sport as a fast walk while maintaining continuous foot contact with the ground and keeping the supporting leg straight. According to him, a good pace is about 6 mph.

“It’s great fun and athletically challenging,” he said.

During the winter, the Twin Cities Race Walkers meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 8 a.m. Saturdays in the north parking lot of the Como Lake Pavilion. The Saint Paul Department of Parks and Recreation keeps the 1.62-mile paved path around the lake clear of snow and ice.

“I’d rather be outside than on a treadmill,” said club member Jeanne DeMartino. “It’s low-impact and is an all-over body workout. I prefer walking with other people 90 percent of the time.”

Around June, however, the group moves its Saturday meetings to the Caribou Coffee shop at 230 Spring St. in the West Seventh neighborhood. The location is right off the Upper Landing loop trail that is also maintained by Parks and Rec. From there, group members can branch off in both directions along the Mississippi River or walk over to sidewalks on and around Summit Avenue.

“I’d rather be outside than on a treadmill,” said club member Jeanne DeMartino, 69, who has been race walking for 30 years. “It’s low-impact and is an all-over body workout. I prefer walking with other people 90 percent of the time.”

DeMartino also enters race walking competitions, for which the former marathon runner prefers to train alone.

Loew-Blosser ran cross-country in high school, but hated it. “You see runners on the trail and most are frowning. Running is torture on your hips and knees,” he said.

Members of Twin Cities Race Walkers come from all over the metro. “We’re a small group, so we get to know each other fairly well,” Loew-Blosser said. “We’ll meet for coffee or a snack afterward.”

Race walks are also held at 8 a.m. on Sundays. Starting points alternate in the summers between Rustica on West Lake Street and the Bread & Pickle cafe on Lake Harriet Parkway. 

In addition to weekly recreational walks, the club holds judged race walks monthly from April through November, usually ranging from 5K-10K (3.1-6.2 miles). Noting that race walking is an Olympic sport, Leasure said Olympians race walk at seven minutes a mile and compete in 20- or 50-mile events.

“For our group, it’s more of an excuse to get outdoors,” said Leasure, who is the club’s coach and a nationally certified race walking judge.

Leasure leads monthly one-hour clinics at the Caribou on Spring Street to introduce those who are new to the sport to the basic components and rules of race walking. The next clinics are scheduled at 5 p.m. on Mondays, May 23 and June 27. The cost is $5.

A 5K and 10K judged race walk to raise money for scholarships for inner-city students will take place from 8-10 a.m. Sunday, May 15, on the Greenway Trail in Maplewood. The cost is $15.

More information on events, clinics and weekly walks can be found by visiting  twincitiesracewalkers.org.

— Carolyn Walkup

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