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Race Walking

Did anyone else get to watch the race walking this morning?  It is intense! Yes they are walking, but they are walking far and they are walking fast.  The winner of the 50K averaged 6:56 per mile and the winner of the women’s 20K averaged 6:50 per mile. I really didn’t know it was possible to walk that fast.

If you did get to see the race walking this morning you probably noticed quite a few people get carded and disqualified.  Race walking has some tricky rules.  For example:

  • Walkers must have the front foot on the ground when the rear foot is raised
  • The front leg must be straight when it is in contact with the ground
  • A judge can issue a yellow card to caution a walker if they are pushing the envelope (but only once)
  • A clear violation of the rules results in a red card (but again, a judge can only issue a red card once to a walker)
  • Three red cards equals disqualification
  • The chief judge can disqualify a walker with 100 meters to go in the race if he/she clearly violates the rules

In the Olympics there are three race walking events – a 20K for both men and women and a 50K for men. I wonder why there is no 50K event for women? Apparently race walking is dominated by the Russians.  This morning Russian Elena Lashmanova set a world record in the 20K with a time of 1:25:02.  Her teammate Olga Kaniskina was only .07 seconds behind her.  For the men’s 50K, Russian Sergey Kirdyapkin set an Olympic record with a time of 3:35:59.  Chen Ding from China won the men’s 20K with a time of 1:18:46. You can watch the highlights here.  American John Nunn came in 43rd for the 50K with a time of 4:03:28.  Still an impressive time for 31.1 miles if you ask me.

As far as world records go, Russians have them all – the men’s 20K, the men’s 50K, and out of the 13 fastest women for the women’s 20K, 10 are from Russia.  The other three are from China.  I think Russians are to race walking what Jamaicans are to sprinting.

And finally, there are some who think race walking has no place in the Olympics, mainly because of how difficult it is to judge.  Here is a great article from the New York Times detailing just how complex the sport can be.

I know there are some who would say walking isn’t really a sport, but anybody who can walk a mile in less than 7 minutes is pretty amazing in my opinion. Watch this 2 minute video if you have a chance.  It pretty much sums up race walking at the Olympics.

Race Walking
Photo Source: Evdcoldeportes, Wikimedia Commons

Don’t forget the men’s marathon is tomorrow morning 6:00 am EST. GO USA!

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


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