Monday, August 2, 2010

Racewalking

Bet you didn’t know I used to be a competitive racewalker. You know, racewalking, that sport you see once every 4 years on TV at the summer Olympics. The novelty event, treated much in the way curling is at the winter games.

The Rodney Dangerfield of track and field.

Still don’t know what I’m talking about? Sound similar to power walking? Well, it’s not at all. Let me explain…

The USATF definition:

• Race walking is a progression of steps so taken that the walker makes contact with the ground so that no visible (to the human eye) loss of contact occurs.

• The advancing leg must be straightened (i.e., not bent at the knee) from the moment of first contact with the ground until in the vertical upright position.

It looks something like this:

(source: Two Feet Gallery)

And like this:
(source: www.iaaf.org)

Seems straightforward, but adherence is subjective to the judges’ eye. Unlike other track events, the winner isn’t simply determined by who crosses the finish line first. Violate a rule more than 3 times during the race and you are disqualified. And if it happens in the final stretch, even if it’s for the first time in the race, you’re out as well.

A yellow warning paddle notifying you of your violation will be waved in front of you the first 2 times. Standard practice is for you to remove yourself from the track once you’ve received 3 violations (as noted by a red paddle waved in front of you) although sometimes a DQ is not determined until the race is over and the judges “red cards” have been tallied.



Racewalking took me to places and presented opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I was a USATF high school all-american in this event, albeit the red-headed stepchild of the track family. As a member of the Junior National Racewalking team I spent some time at the National Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, and also competed against international competition in the Pan Am Cup. Since racewalking prioritizes different muscle groups than running, it is also a fantastic cross training activity. I always felt like I was starting the cross country season in the fall with a bit of an edge.

I competed independently during the off-season (a.k.a summertime) between the track and cross country seasons at school, through AAU and USATF events. I started when I was 11 and stayed with it until my freshman year of college. Once I turned 20, I was no longer eligible to compete as a junior. Taking it to the next level of competition was not something I was interested in doing. I was just burnt out. And it’s not like there are many local racewalk groups and races to participate in if I wanted to stick with it casually.

I returned to regular running for basic fitness, and over the course of my sophomore year of college my weekly mileage slowly began to creep up. It was the beginning of love with long distance running. (Not the 5K stuff that made you a “distance runner” in high school.)

I wish I had some more pictures to share, but my racewalking days were just before digital cameras became the norm. The prints are mostly tucked away in my mom’s photo albums up in Jerzy, so I’m sorry I don’t have more to share. Here are some vintage pictures of a teenage Runblondie demonstrating some drills and dynamic stretches. They're worth doing even if you're a runner and not a racewalker. More can be found here www.racewalk.com.

(source: racewalk.com)

(source:racewalk.com)

If you’re curious to learn more about racewalking, stick around and check out the rest of www.racewalk.com. It’s a complete one stop shop for all your racewalking needs :)

Racewalking is a great alternative if your muscles and joints have taken a pounding from running and you want to give them a break.