Race walking: types, technique, distances

It’s walking – but the technique of its execution is far from classical walking. It’s not a race – but top 50k athletes run faster than most recreational runners would run a half marathon. In this article, we will talk about all the intricacies of such a sport as athletic walking.

Types of walking

Walking can be different: walking, health, Scandinavian and finally sports. All of them have different speeds, but maybe only running has its own style unlike everything else.

Fitness walking differs from other types of walking and the intensity of the load: for short distances it involves an oxygen debt, while other types of walking are unlikely to prevent you from talking while walking. movement.

In common fitness practice, walking is not very popular, it acts as a professional activity. To lose weight and tone up, enthusiasts resort to health and Nordic walking, due to their accessibility and simplicity.

Read on the subject: Nordic walking with poles: benefits, technique, beginner’s mistakes

source : olympicchannel.com


Race walking has a long history: the first race for walkers took place in London in 1882. But long before that there were similar events, however, they were organized according to the type of modern ultramarathons.

In mid-19th century New York, professional walkers competed 24 hours a day, but were allowed to eat or rest. The participant who covered the greatest distance in six days was declared the winner.

Race walking entered the family of Olympic sports in 1904, but not at all in its current form. The walkers competed over short distances. In 1908 it was 1500 m and 3000 m. In 1912, athletes were already running 10 km, and the 50-kilometer distance took its place only in 1932. The 20-kilometer race was included in the program in the middle of the 20th century – in 1956.

The third landmark year for this sport was 1992, and all because it was from that time that women were able to participate in races, but they only ran 10 km, athletes began to be allowed at 20 km only from 2000, but the 50 Kilometer women do not cover the distance in the Olympics to date.

For the first time, women were able to try their hand at the 50 km in 2017. Then the IAAF Council decided to include such a race for women in the World Championships in Athletics in London.

The latest news from the IAAF suggests that the Olympic history of race walking is about to undergo major changes again. It was expected that the 2020 games would be the last for the 50 kilometer competition, and from the next Olympics, walkers would compete for medals at 10, 20, 30 or 35 km.

Race walking world records over 20 and 50 km

20 kilometers

  • Men: 1:16:36 (3:50 min/km) – Yusuke Suzuki (Japan), March 15, 2015, Nomi, Japan
  • Women: 1:24:38 (4:14 min/km) – Liu Hong (China), June 6, 2015, La Coruña, Spain

50 kilometers

  • Men: 3:32:33 (4:15 min/km) – Yoann Dini (France), August 15, 2014, Zurich, Switzerland
  • Women: 3:59:15 (4:47 min/km) – Liu Hong (China), March 9, 2019, Huangshan, China

How is race walking different from regular walking?

Normal, walking, walking is 4-5 km/h, up to 100 steps per minute. A pedestrian is considered to be walking fast if he is moving at a speed of about 6 km/h, taking about 120 steps per minute. In race walking, the speed of movement, it can be safely said, is running.

Professional athletes are able to walk for a long time at a speed of more than 16 km/h. And the frequency of steps they develop is the same as that of 800-meter runners, more than 200 steps per minute.

Of course, you can’t mistake a walker for a pedestrian by body movement either. The speed walker works actively with the arms and pelvis bent at the elbows, he does not bend the front leg at the knee, and his stride can exceed 1 m in length, while when walking the stride length usually does not exceed 70cm.

walking technique

What is the correct way to walk in race walking?

  • Keep your torso straight.
  • We do not bend the front leg at the knee, we leave it completely straightened, we put it on the floor from the heel.
  • We work rhythmically with our hands, performing strong swings. The arms are bent at the elbows, as in running, they go back and forth.
  • We help the work of the legs, shaking the pelvis and the torso.

Running rules

Race walking is a type of athletics where judges, or referees, watch athletes as carefully and assess their technique as strictly as judges in figure skating.

If in running no one disqualifies an athlete for tightly clenched fists or falling head back, usually for faults in terms of economical running technique, then in race walking 6-9 judges control the correct technique.

When the athlete loses contact with the ground, the judges show him a card with a wavy horizontal line, but when the walker’s leg is suddenly bent, he will see a card with two segments connected at an angle of 150 degrees.

Warning cards are yellow. Disqualification – red card. But the catch is that, having violated once, the athlete will no longer see the repetition of the error signal, even if he commits it. The judges, finding repeated violations, will send red cards to the main referee, and this one will disqualify the athlete if he receives three red signals from three different judges.

source : olympicchannel.com

Judges are usually located on difficult sections of the track. For example, on descents, where, with a natural increase in speed, you can make a mistake and switch to running. This is why, on the tracks, walkers, on the contrary, dampen their speed by reducing their stride length.

The problem is that the judgment is made with the naked eye and can sometimes be subjective. The IAAF is now focusing on the development of Microchip Insole Technology (RWECS). This technology will automate the control of the athlete’s foot contact with the ground. It has been reported that testing is expected to begin in 2020.

Running distances

Unlike running disciplines, race walking does not have such a range of distances. There are only 6, and only 5 distances are available for women.

Outside the stadium:

  • men – 5 km, 20 km, 35 km, 50 km;
  • women’s – 5 km, 20 km, 35 km.

Outdoor stadium at 400 m:

  • 3000m;
  • 5000m;
  • 10 000 m.

Read more: Athletics Disciplines

Running vs running: what’s the difference?

The constant contact of the foot with the ground is what differentiates running walking from running. This technical moment is evaluated by the judges from a distance, and for the running “flight phase” the athlete receives a warning, and in case of repeated violation of the technique – disqualification.

You can’t imagine running without bending your legs at the knees while bringing your hips forward, but in race walking there is a strict rule: keep your legs straight until your foot hits the track. If the referee notices a walker’s sharp knees, this will be considered a serious violation of technique.

From the point of view of bodywork, running and walking are also different. Walking is less traumatic than running: the load on the joints is much less, the load on the heart is also lower.

But in terms of movement speed, walking isn’t too different from running, especially as an amateur. In the next paragraph, you can see how fast an athlete needs to go to complete the Master of Sports title.

Walking speed

Maybe looking at the time it takes for walkers to walk, say 20km even for 1 category, many will be surprised, as the men’s 1h42 (05:06 min/km) isn’t too far behind amateur half-marathon running.

Yes, race walking is admired for its speed, as most of us are used to the word “walking” in a different sense of speed. For the title of master of world-class sports, a male athlete must walk 20 km at an average pace of 04:05 min/km, for women the minimum pace is 04:36 min/km.

At the “golden” distance – 50 km – the requirement for the first category is 06:18 min/km, but for the MSMK 04:36 min/km, but even the minimum pace required to obtain 1 category is unbelievable.

What is even more astonishing is the speed with which Frenchman Yoann Dini set the world record for the 50 km walk: he finished in 3h32’33”, or 04h15 min/km or 14.1 km/ h!

What muscles are involved in running

In race walking, the arms and almost all muscles are actively working, especially the leg muscles – the back of the thigh. To prevent premature fatigue, the athlete must relax the muscles that are currently not working. This saves the forces needed for a quick finish.

The value of muscle relaxation is large due to the high frequency of steps, and in running walking this figure exceeds 200. The economy of walking is achieved due to the ability to relax muscles that do not work for the moment.

The combination of alternating work and rest of the muscles requires precisely coordinated activity of the neuromuscular apparatus. Learning to maintain double support on the ground at high speed has been a task for many years for professional walkers. To succeed in walking, you need good coordination of movements, endurance and flexibility.

Statistics show that it takes 4-5 years to train an adult athlete before they meet the standards of a candidate for a Masters in Sports or a Masters in Sports.

Read also: Why walk 10,000 steps a day

Fitness walking shoes

As such, a separate category of running shoes designed for power walking is hard to find. However, there are certain requirements for walking shoes:

  • lightweight;
  • special shape of the sole: low beveled heel for quick contact with the surface and better repulsion;
  • the sole should have a wide platform, which gives better stability and traction;
  • good heel cushioning;
  • the sole should not flex because walkers need more stability than runners, and too soft a sole causes the hamstring muscle to stretch.

Anyone can use a regular pair of running shoes, and most do, but there’s still one shoe brand dedicated to power walking – that’s Reshod.

Wellness walk, and is it possible to lose weight with it

We’re used to seeing athletic joggers, Nordic walkers and skiers, but is race walking outside of professional sports?

Yes, but I must say that it is quite rare for amateurs to take this path. However, people of all ages can engage in this type of physical activity.

At the start of the workout, start with short distances and a slow pace to allow your body to settle. Up to 3 km for the first time will be enough. Pay attention to walking technique rather than mileage. For exercise, choose a stadium, park, or forest trails, but not a treadmill at a fitness center. On the latter there is no way to walk using the race walking technique.

We have already mentioned that fitness walking puts little strain on the joints and the heart, which means that such activities can be recommended for people with a sedentary lifestyle.

Race walking is considered one of the safest sports and, for those involved recreationally, it includes:

  • stress management;
  • training of the cardiovascular system;
  • increased endurance;
  • stabilization of the digestive system;
  • Muscle tone.

But before the first course, consult your doctor if you have any chronic diseases. For example, although there is no risk of common running injuries, running still puts a lot of pressure on the ankles and hips.

Can I lose weight?

If you follow the diet, of course. This is an energy-intensive type of physical activity, so calories will be burned quickly, helping you create a deficit. By the way, it is precise because of the reduced load on the joints and bones that doctors recommend walking to overweight people.

Note that running is more dynamic than a health-enhancing slow run, i.e. more calories can be burned. It is also good because it includes many muscles at once, and this is its advantage over normal walking.