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Runnin’ with Rani: Finding a groove with racewalking

Updated: 
July 7, 2017 - 12:05am

From a distance, Stan Chraminski appears to be just like any other runner on Alii Drive - beating the pavement for an early morning Sunday run.

Sporting a baseball cap and dry-mesh singlet, Chraminski’s lean arms pump back and forth as he is moving at a pretty good clip.

But there’s something a little peculiar with his gait.

His hips sway side-to-side, and while Chraminski’s leading knee extends straight before his heel contacts the hot asphalt, he glides effortlessly in a forward rolling motion.

Is he running or walking? Neither. Chraminski is racewalking.

For the last three decades, Chraminski has competed in racewalking events, covering distances from a 3K (1.86-miles) to 50K (31-miles). He is a five-time National Masters Champion in the sport and holds several racewalk age-group records for track races ranging from a 15K to 50K. Chraminski also ranked among the top 10 in the U.S. in the 50K when he was 40-years old.

Prior to racewalking, Chraminski was an accomplished runner with an impressive marathon best at 2 hours and 40 minutes, and a 10K time of 35-minutes.

“I got into running in my early thirties for fitness and competition,” said the 69-year old Keauhou resident. “After a decade of long distance running and competing in marathons, my knees started to cause me problems. So I began to look for a sport to cross-train to get over the knee injuries. After I paid for a racewalking lesson I really enjoyed it. My wife and I switched over to racewalking in 1988 and we have been racewalking ever since.”

Chraminski, who is originally from Seattle, Washington, said that while he was an active racewalking competitor in his hometown, he also coached newcomers to the sport every second Saturday of the month at Seattle’s Club Northwest until retiring to Kona two years ago.

Once he and his wife settled in Keauhou, Chraminski noticed that he was the only athlete out “racewalking” in an active community filled with runners, triathletes, and devoted walkers.

As a local artist who enjoys capturing Kona’s beautiful outdoor scenery through his landscape paintings that can be found at the Jungle Love store, Chraminski is hoping to get more people excited about racewalking on an island with so many natural attractions.

“Just about anyone can pick up racewalking - from fitness strivers, runners looking to cross-train, to world class athletes, and everyone in between,” he said.

“For current walkers, using some of the attributes of racewalking will provide better speed and the higher heart rate needed to develop fitness. For competitors, most running races welcome racewalkers, although it’s intended for flatter and paved courses to maintain form. Racewalking can serve to maintain fitness and provide great cross training for injured or injury prone runners. For serious athletes, racewalking provides national and international competition in a smaller “gene pool” where the slightly less talented but dedicated athlete can excel.”

Racewalking has been recognized as an Olympic sport for over a century and completely distinguishes itself from running - in form, and the fact that an athlete’s foot is required to maintain contact with the ground at all times. There are two rules that govern racewalking.

Rule One - the athlete’s back toe cannot leave the ground until the heel of the front foot has touched. To violate this rule is known as, loss of contact.

Rule Two - the athlete’s supporting leg must straighten from the point of contact with the ground and remain straightened until the body passes directly over it.

“There’s a lot of hip action that helps with one’s stride length,” Chraminski said. “This is why women tend to pick it up a little faster than men who typically have stiff hips and need to work harder at it.

“Injured runners find that it doesn’t beat them up as much, and it helps power walkers and regular walkers who want to walk a little faster get fit. And they don’t need to follow the rules of racewalking exactly, but some of the techniques and aspects of it can help them to walk faster. It’s a forward rolling motion instead of just plain walking.”

Chraminski added that there are several things to consider when learning to racewalk.

Racewalking is 30-percent slower than running and while one can typically allow their mind to drift while running or walking, in racewalking, a steady and focused mindset helps to minimize risk of one’s feet losing contact with the ground.

But the main thing is - it’s a fun workout and a great way to get your ‘groove on.’ Chraminski hopes to popularize racewalking here on the Big Island by presenting free racewalking clinics at the Old Airport Makaeo Walking Path.

“It’s a good physical activity and if there are people who want to get fit through racewalking then I’m happy to help train and coach them a little bit. When I go to the running groups on Tuesdays and Thursdays, most people are too fast for me because they are running. So I’m hoping to develop a group of walkers who’d like to racewalk once or twice a week.”

Free clinics will begin at 9 a.m. and will be held every second Saturday of the month. The next three dates over the summer are July 8, Aug. 12, and Sept. 9. For more information contact Stan Chraminski at stanski@twc.com.

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