It is time to talk about a discipline that requires athletic prowess but makes people seem silly why they do it. You’ve seen them on the screen and in your neighborhood. What is racewalking, how does it differ from running, and why is it such a big deal?
Racewalking is a discipline where people race on foot, but it is not running. In order to stay in the race, you need to keep a foot firmly on the ground. You can’t have them both raised at the same time. It is a long-distance type of race, with the tracks ranging from just a few kilometers to over 60 miles.
It may sound strange, but this discipline is not the hobby exercised by the good people in the Ministry of Silly Walks. It has been an Olympic event for more than a hundred years. When it first appeared it was an overture to a decathlon.
As mentioned before, you must keep one foot on the ground at all times. Another rule is that your front leg must always be straight. You may wonder how this is supposed to help you achieve great speed. The answer lies in the hip movement.
There are around ten judges watching racers. There is no video surveillance to double-check the rulings. Because of the number of competitors and the subjective interpretation of the rules by the judges, the sport is filled with contestants complaining. It is no wonder, as three violations of the rules get you out of the race for good.
If you are close to breaking a rule, a judge will pull up a yellow paddle. However, the problem lies in the fact that, when you do actually break a rule, the judge will issue a silent red card. Racers have no idea if any red cards have been issued to them prior to ending the race or becoming disqualified.
Though the length of racewalking tracks differs from one race to the next, there are two racing disciplines one can find at the Summer Olympics. Both men and women can compete in the 20km race, whereas the 50km race is reserved only for men. There is even a 10km race for the juniors.
In 1904, racewalking was a part of the Olympics as just one of the ten disciplines in the decathlon. However, for the next games in 1908, it became a full-fledged event. The women had to wait their turn to try out – it wasn’t until the 90s that they were allowed to participate in the Olympic racewalking.
Who Made It and Who’s Awesome at It?
Racewalking began as pedestrianism in the late 1800s in England, though walking fast to win a wager was already gaining popularity a century prior. In 1880, the discipline became a sport. While it was an interesting pastime, and the one that could win spectators and competitors some money, it developed relatively late, due to the popularity of other sports, like football.
In spite of the fact that the Brits made the discipline widely practiced around the world, it is the Russians who are generally the most successful in the sport, though Mexico and China are trailing close behind. It remains to be seen what the future Olympics will have in store for us.