Racewalking, or race walking, is a long-distance athletic event. Although it is a foot race, it is different from running in that one foot must appear to be in contact with the ground at all times. Stride length is reduced, so to achieve competitive speeds, racewalkers must attain cadence rates comparable to those achieved by Olympic 800-meter runners—and they must do so for hours at a time since the Olympic events are the 20 km (12.4 mi) race walk (men and women) and 50 km (31 mi) race walk (men only), and 50 mile (80.5 km) events are also held.
There are two rules that govern racewalking. The first dictates that the athlete's back toe cannot leave the ground until the heel of the front foot has touched. Violation of this rule is known as loss of contact. The second rule requires that the supporting leg must straighten from the point of contact with the ground and remain straightened until the body passes directly over it. These rules are judged by the human eye. Athletes regularly lose contact for a few milliseconds per stride which can be caught on film, but such a short flight phase is said to be undetectable to the human eye.
Athletes stay low to the ground by keeping their arms pumping low, close to their hips. If one sees a racewalker's shoulders rising, it may be a sign that the athlete is losing contact with the ground. What appears to be an exaggerated swivel to the hip is, in fact, a full rotation of the pelvis. Athletes aim to move the pelvis forward, and to minimize sideways motion in order to achieve maximum forward propulsion. Speed is achieved by stepping quickly with the aim of rapid turnover. This minimizes the risk of the feet leaving the ground. Strides are short and quick, with pushoff coming forward from the ball of the foot, again to minimize the risk of losing contact with the ground. World-class racewalkers (male and female) can average under four and five minutes per kilometre in a 20-km racewalk.
Races have been walked at distances as short as 3 kilometres (1.9 mi)—at the 1920 Summer Olympics—and as long as 100 km (62.1 mi). Records are noted for the 50 miles (80.5 km); the men's world record for the 50-mile race walk is held by Israeli Shaul Ladany, through his race of 7:23:50 in 1972 in New Jersey, shattering the world mark that had stood since 1935. The modern Olympic events are the 20 km (12.4 mi) race walk (men and women) and 50 km (31 mi) race walk (men only).
There are judges on the course to monitor form. Three judges submitting "red cards" for violations results in disqualification. There is a scoreboard placed on the course so competitors can see their violation status. If the third violation is received, the chief judge removes the competitor from the course by showing a red paddle. For monitoring reasons, races are held on a looped course or on a track so judges get to see competitors several times during a race. A judge could also "caution" a competitor that he or she is in danger of losing form by showing a paddle that indicates either losing contact or bent knees. No judge may submit more than one card for each walker and the chief judge may not submit any cards; it is his or her job only to disqualify the offending walker. Disqualifications are routine at the elite level, such as the famous case of Jane Saville disqualified within sight of a gold medal in front of her home crowd in the 2000 Summer Olympics.
Racewalking developed as one of the original track and field events of the first meeting of the English Amateur Athletics Association in 1880. The first racewalking codes came from an attempt to regularize rules for popular 19th century long distance competitive walking events, called Pedestrianism. Pedestrianism had developed, like footraces and horse racing, as a popular working class British and American pastime, and a venue for wagering. Walkers organised the first English amateur walking championship in 1866, which was won by John Chambers, and judged by the "fair heel and toe" rule. This rather vague code was the basis for the rules codified at the first Championships Meeting in 1880 of the Amateur Athletics Association in England, the birth of modern Athletics. With football (soccer), cricket, and other sports codified in the 19th century, the transition from professional Pedestrianism to amateur racewalking was, while relatively late, part of a process of regularisation occurring in most modern sports at this time.
Racewalking is an Olympic athletics (track and field) event with distances of 20 kilometres for both men and women and 50 kilometres for men only. Racewalking first appeared in the modern Olympics in 1904 as a half-mile walk in the 'all-rounder,' the precursor to the 10-event decathlon. In 1908, stand-alone 1,500m and 3,000m racewalks were added, and—excluding 1924—there has been at least one racewalk (for men) in every Olympics since. The women's racewalk became an Olympic event only in 1992, following years of active lobbying by female internationals. A World Cup in racewalking is held biennially, and racewalk events appear in the IAAF Athletics World Championships, the Commonwealth Games and the Pan American Games, among others.
World Race Walking Challenge
Since 2003, the IAAF has organised an annual worldwide competition series in which elite athletes accumulate points for the right to compete in the IAAF Race Walking Challenge Final and to share over 200,000 USD of prize money. The series of televised events takes place in several countries each year including Mexico, Spain, Russia and China.
Racewalking is sometimes included in high school indoor and outdoor track meets, the rules often more relaxed. The distances walked tend to be relatively short, with the 1500 m being the most commonly held event. Significant racing also occurs at 3 km, 5 km and 10 km, with records kept and annual rankings published.
|1:17:16||Vladimir Kanaykin||Russia||Saransk||September 28, 2007|
|1:17:21||Jefferson Pérez||Ecuador||Paris||August 23, 2003|
|1:17:22||Francisco Javier Fernández||Spain||Turku||April 28, 2002|
|1:17:25||Bernardo Segura||Mexico||Bergen||May 7, 1994|
|1:17:30||Alex Schwazer||Italy||Lugano||March 18, 2012|
|1:17:33||Nathan Deakes||Australia||Cixi City||April 23, 2005|
|1:18:04||Bu Lingtang||China||Beijing||April 7, 1994|
|1:18:13||Pavol Blažek||Czechoslovakia||Hildesheim||September 9, 1990|
|1:18:20||Andrey Perlov||Soviet Union||Moscow||May 26, 1990|
|1:19:08||Mikhail Shchennikov||Soviet Union||Kiev||July 30, 1988|
|1:19:12||Axel Noack||East Germany||Karl-Marx-Stadt||June 21, 1987|
|3:34:14||Denis Nizhegorodov||Russia||Cheboksary||May 11, 2008|
|3:35:47||Nathan Deakes||Australia||Geelong||December 2, 2006|
|3:36:03||Robert Korzeniowski||Poland||Paris||August 27, 2003|
|3:36:04||Alex Schwazer||Italy||Rosignano Solvay||February 11, 2007|
|3:36:06||Yu Chaohong||China||Nanjing||October 22, 2005|
|3:36:13||Zhao Chengliang||China||Nanjing||October 22, 2005|
|3:36:20||Han Yucheng||China||Nanjing||February 27, 2005|
|3:36:42||German Skurygin||Russia||Paris||August 27, 2003|
|3:37:26||Valeriy Spitsyn||Russia||Moscow||May 21, 2000|
|3:37:41||Andrey Perlov||Soviet Union||Leningrad||August 5, 1989|
|1:24:50 †||Olimpiada Ivanova||Russia (Chuvashia)||Adler||March 4, 2001|
|1:25:02||Elena Lashmanova||Russia (Mordovia)||London||August 11, 2012|
|1:25:08||Vera Sokolova||Russia (Chuvashia)||Sochi||February 26, 2011|
|1:25:18 †||Tatyana Gudkova||Russia||Moscow||May 19, 2000|
|1:25:20 †||Olga Polyakova||Russia||Moscow||May 19, 2000|
|1:25:29 †||Irina Stankina||Russia (Mordovia)||Moscow||May 19, 2000|
|1:25:59 †||Tamara Kovalenko||Russia||Moscow||May 19, 2000|
|1:26:22||Wang Yan||China||Guangzhou||November 19, 2001|
|1:26:22 †||Yelena Nikolayeva||Russia (Chuvashia)||Cheboksary||May 18, 2003|
|1:26:23||Wang Liping||China||Guangzhou||November 19, 2001|
|1:26:28 †||Irina Pudovkina||Russia||Adler||March 12, 2005|
|1:26:31||Olga Kaniskina||Russia (Mordovia)||Beijing||August 21, 2008|
|1:26:35||Liu Hongyu||China||Guangzhou||November 19, 2001|
- † : These times were achieved without the presence of international judges to officiate the competition and/or post-race doping tests, thus making them invalid for world record status. However, they are accepted as personal best marks for those athletes.
In popular culture
- Doctor Detroit (1983) Dan Aykroyd uses racewalking as a vehicle to emphasize his nerdy professor character.
- Walk Don't Run: A 1966 Cary Grant movie, revolving around race walking at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
- When Harry Met Sally (1989) Billy Crystal walks in Central Park
- Are We Done Yet?: starring Ice Cube and John C. McGinley, the eccentric jack of all trades contractor who is also a former professional racewalker.
- Almost Live! features a regular sketch of the Speed Walker, played by Bill Nye as a super hero who fights crime while adhering to the competitive rules.
- Malcolm in the Middle: Episode #70 (Malcolm Holds His Tongue). Hal takes up racewalking and discovers that one of the competitors had been cheating.
- Homestarrunner.com: 50K Racewalker. A game where the player must racewalk 50 kilometers in order to win, requiring more than 20 hours to complete.
- Belson, Ken. "One Step at a Time? It’s More Complicated Than That" New York Times (August 10, 2012)
- "IAAF racewalking rules (see "Definition")". Archived from the original on September 8, 2012. Retrieved August 21, 2008.[dead link]
- IAAF website, discussion of racewalking history and rules Retrieved August 21, 2008.
- IAAF official website statistics.
- Renee Ghert-Zand (January 31, 2012). The Healthiness of a Long-Distance Walker. The Jewish Week. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
- Green, David B. (January 14, 2009). "Questions & Answers / A conversation with Shaul P. Ladany". Haaretz. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
- "Shaul Ladany". Jewishsports.net. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
- Seymour S. Smith (August 19, 1974). "Ladany training to win Olympics in a walk". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
- IAAF WRWC.
- High School Racewalking website.
- "Official IAAF Race Results Cheboksary 2008". iaaf.org. Retrieved August 11, 2012.
- American Way. "Golden Boy: Costas Now". Retrieved August 8, 2012.
- Walking on Screen
- 50K Racewalker
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Race walking.|
- High School Race Walking
- Race Walking Record – News, photos and reports all about racewalking
- World Masters Race Walking Rankings
- Race Walk UK
- Race Walk Australia
- The Walking Site
- D. Guebey walking pages
- Swiss Walking Federation, official website
- Centurions History