Race Walking in the Olympics

Race Walking in the Olympics
The 2008 Olympics are underway and amid all the political turmoil and world strife, there are some amazing athletes who are striving to reach their dreams and goals in Beijing. Some of those athletes will be doing just that by race walking in the Olympics.

Walking is not just a terrific exercise for fitness; it is a sport. A long-distance, competitive sport. And, you can see the best race walkers in the world if you catch the race walking competitions in the Olympics.

Races: There are three race walking competitions in the Olympics: Men’s and Women’s 20 kilometer (12.43 miles) and Men’s 50 kilometer (31.07 miles). The men’s 50 K race walk is about five miles longer than a marathon, and takes almost 4 hours, which makes it the longest single event in the Olympics.

While various men’s walking competitions have been in the Olympics since 1904, women’s race walking is a relatively very young sport. Women were first allowed to compete in race walking in the Olympic competitions in 1992, with a 10 K race, which was later changed to the current 20 K.

Race Walking Rules: Race walking is not just “walking faster”. There are specific form rules one must follow in these competitions. These form rules are designed to ensure that race walkers do not break into a run. One foot must always be in contact with the ground, and the front leg must remain straight from the time it touches the ground until the time it leaves the ground. These rules are why race walking looks rather odd. The human body just naturally wants to run at those speeds.

Walkers also start their races standing up and may not touch the ground with their hands.

Judges carefully watch race walkers and either issue warnings or disqualifications for competitors who break the form rules. One thing they look for is rising shoulders, which can indicate that both feet may be airborne at the same time.

Competition Schedule:

Men’s 20 Kilometer Race Walk is August 16
Women’s 20 Kilometer Race Walk is August 20
Men’s 50 Kilometer Race Walk is August 21


Russia holds the most race walking records in all three races, with China running second. China will have far more race walkers than any other country in this year’s Olympics, too.

Look for Joanne Dow, 44-year-old race walker from New Hampshire in her first Olympic bid in the women’s 20 K. Phillip Dunn (Men’s 50 K) and Kevin Eastler (Men’s 20 K) will represent the US in the Men’s races.

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