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Racewalkers step it up

Those who tried the racewalking competition at Sunday’s Show-Me State Games 5K race said they found the event invigorating.
Sunday, July 27, 2008 | 10:03 p.m. CDT; updated 10:56 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 27, 2008

COLUMBIA — The racers stand at the starting line ready to begin the 5K course through Columbia. When they receive the signal, they take off running down the middle of Mick Deaver Road between the Hearnes Center and Memorial Stadium, leaving seven people behind them.
Those left at the starting line are the racewalkers.
They eagerly wait to start the race, shaking their legs and making small talk. After two minutes they too get the signal take off, yet the start has decidedly different look.
Racewalking is an Olympic sport. It is judged and involves careful movements as the competitor strives to keep one foot on the ground at all times. Knees must be locked as soon as the front foot hits the ground and should stay locked until the leg leaves the ground behind the racer. Competitors are disqualified after three violations.
Sunday morning’s Show-Me State Games 5K Racewalk was the first competition for Cynthia Blueitt, 41, of St. Louis, but for others it was not.
Blueitt said she has been working towards improving her health and decided that racewalking was something she would like to try. Blueitt said she wanted to participate in a 5K, but did not want to run. She saw racewalking and began training about four or five months ago. After the race was over, she said it was something she would like to continue doing.
“I like the sense of accomplishment I get and how my body and spirit feel afterwards,” Blueitt said.
Floyd Delon, 78, of Columbia, said he has been racewalking for about 10 years. He said he started because he had knee problems, and racewalking is easier on the knees and also exercises more muscle groups than running does.
Last year, Delon participated in the National Senior Games competition in Louisville. Out of the 24 people in his age class, he placed 14th in the 1,500-meter dash and 15th in the 5K, both in racewalking.
“I didn’t receive a medal, but at least I didn’t finish last,” Delon said.
Delon also qualified for the 2009 National Senior Games competition in Pal Alto, Calif., by placing second in the 5K during the Senior Show-Me Games this year.
Dave Couts, 52, of Whiteside, said he started racewalking about 20 years ago after having numerous running injuries.
“Not everyone can be runners,” Couts said. “Racewalking breaks up the group competitively.”
Couts also competed in the National Senior Games last year for racewalking, winning both the 1,500 and 5K.
Couts said people can still get injuries from racewalking but only if someone is pushing too hard. He said that racewalking uses more arms, hips, back and hamstrings than running does.
“If you do the technique right, you use just about everything except maybe your quads,” Couts said.
He said it’s all about the technique. You have to get the technique down in order to do well and not get disqualified, he said. You also have to have quick turnover, which he described as how fast the person moves their hips so they can take more steps.
“It’s almost like you have to get it where it’s just part of your mind and you don’t think about it,” Couts said.
Both Kansas City and St. Louis have racewalking clubs. For more information on racewalking, go to the Web site www.heartlandracewalkers.com.

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