THE RACE WALKING ASSOCIATION
 
R.W.A.Badge

FOUNDED 1907




SOME FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE ANY OTHER QUESTIONS DEALT WITH HERE,
OR WISH TO COMMENT ON AN ANSWER, PLEASE USE THE
FAQ FORM
 
SOME QUESTIONS....

What is Race Walking?
Why not simply run?
What are the rules?
What is the history of race walking?
How do you know when they're walking?
Is a walker told when he gets a warning?

Can a judge advise a walker?
Isn't it difficult for a beginner to learn straightening and contact at the same time?
Are there many race walkers?
What are the distances of the races?
Are there races for older people?
Are there races for younger people?
Where can I find out about competition for Young Athletes?
How good do you have to be?
Where can I see some recent results?
What about power walking and speed walking?
Is it an expensive sport?
Don't you get laughed at?
What does it look like?
Is race walking  a dying sport?
Is it worth starting?
I have to take medication; am I in danger of being banned?
How do I find out more?
Where can I read about race walking?

....AND SOME ANSWERS....

What is Race Walking?
Race Walking is a discipline or activity of athletics on a par with running, jumping and throwing. There are race walking events in all the major competitions - Olympic Games, World Championships, Continental Championships, Commonwealth Games, etc. - and there are also World and Continental Cups and Championships devoted entirely to race walking. It is governed by Rule 230 of the International Association of Athletics Federations. For the wording of the Rule, click here

Why not simply run?
Running is certainly faster, but one of the interests of sport is in achieving good performances within the restriction of the rules. Swimming, for example is fastest using the crawl stroke, but swimmers still race using the backstroke, gaining possession at basketball would be easier if you were allowed to tackle the opposition and progress at rugby would be easier if you were allowed to pass the ball forward; all these are examples of the imposition of rules to make the game more interesting and challenging. Perhaps, though, it would be better to regard race walking not as trying to go as fast as possible and then restricting the way of doing so; it should be seen as extending as far as possible one method of progress without lapsing into another. The definitions and rules of race walking are directed towards helping the extension and preventing the lapsing. Surrey Walking Club provide an extensive answer to the question "Why Walk?"

What are the rules?
The basic Rule of Race Walking is Rule 230.1 of the International Association of Athletic Federations (the I.A.A.F.), which states:
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 shall be straightened (i.e. not bent at the knee) from the moment of first contact with the ground until the vertical upright position.  [ Full text of Rule 230.]

What is the history of race walking?
For a potted history of the sport, click
here

How do you know that they're walking?
Judges are appointed for each race to ensure that the competitors are complying with Rule 230.1. If a judge thinks that any competitor is not complying, that judge will issue a "red card", which is passed to the Chief Judge. This is posted on a board where the competitor can see it. When a competitor receives a third red card, he will be disqualified by the Chief Judge. No judge can issue more than one red card against any individual competitor. In international events, the three red cards against a competitor will generally have to be issued by judges of three different nationalities; this is to avoid any accusations of national bias.

Is a walker told when he gets a red card?
The judge is not allowed to tell the walker when he issues a red card against him. If the walker knew which judge had recommended his disqualification he could, if he wanted to cheat, run past that judge and no action could be taken; it is better for a walker to know that he has red cards against him but not where they came from.

Can a judge advise a walker?
A judge must warn competitors "when, by their mode of progression, they are in danger of failing to comply...."
No competitor is entitled to more than one warning from any judge for being in danger of failing to comply for either loss of contact or bent knees. Note that this Rule does not allow a judge to warn a defaulting walker in the hope that he will become "legal". If he is not complying he must be given a red card.

Isn't it difficult for a beginner to learn straightening and contact at the same time?
A bit. Within the R.W.A. territory (England, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands) there is an introductory type of race walking designed to help beginners, in which the "straightening" part of the Rule is not applied; only continuous contact is required. Walks held strictly according to the I.A.A.F. Rule are called "Category A" and those designed for the encouragement of novice walkers are called "Category B"; in the Fixture List the Category of each event is shown. All International events and all National, Area and County Championships must be Category A; for other events, the promoter may decide on the Category.

Are there many race walkers?
A count suggests that in the R.W.A. territory rather more than 4,300 people competed in race walking events in 2011-2012. However, this figure is based upon the number of entries in "open" races; there will have been many others competing in closed events, veterans' leagues etc., who will not have been included in the count. Race walkers are spread across the territory, although there are particular concentrations in South Yorkshire, Humberside, Merseyside, Lancashire, the Midlands, Essex, Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Guernsey and the Isle of Man; a development programme is under way to build the numbers of walkers elsewhere.

What are the distances of the races?
From 1 mile up to 100 miles are the most common distances; there are occasional events over greater distances. The standard international distances (as in the Olympic Games) are 20 and 50 kilometres for men and 20 kilometres for women. Younger walkers generally race over shorter distances up to 10 kilometres.

Are there races for older people?
It is possible to continue in competitive race walking well into the sixties and seventies and even beyond; there are several very active veterans' clubs (for men over 40 and women over 35), with their own regional, national and international championships. In addition, many veterans more than hold their own against much younger walkers. If you wish to make contact with your local Veterans' Club, click here.

Are there races for younger people?
Certainly. The youngest "proper" age group is Under 13 (that is, roughly speaking, 11 years old but not yet 13); others are Under 15, Under 17 and Junior (Under 20). All these age groups have their own National, Area and, in some places, County Championships and there are international opportunities. The R.W.A. organises a year-long Younger Athletes' Grand Prix Series [see the next question]. There are also The English Schools Athletic Association Championships. Special development races are also provided for Under 11s at certain events, where the officials do all they can to encourage the young aspirants without having to disqualify them.

Where can I find out about competition for young athletes?
Many events have races for younger athletes and these are shown in the Fixture Lists. The Grand Prix mentioned above has its own web site, which you can visit here.

How good do you have to be?
You don't have to be a world-beater to enjoy race walking; 5 m.p.h. would be a good sort of speed to aim at initially. It's roughly true to say that running a mile is about the equivalent of walking a kilometre, so that running 10 miles in 60 minutes is roughly on a par with walking 10 kilometres in 60 minutes. See the question for information on  race times.

Where can I see some recent results?
There is an excellent web site at RaceWalkUk, which has results of races, athlete and club profiles, event entry information and much else. Access is unrestricted and you are welcome to browse.

What about power walking and speed walking?
Power walking and speed walking are milder and non-competitive variants of race walking, just as jogging is a milder form of running. Anyone who has done some power walking or speed walking is well on the way to becoming a race walker; the difference is mostly in degree of effort, with some more concentration on technique.

Is it an expensive sport?
No. A decent pair of shoes for a beginner would be the most expensive item; you might hope to find them from £50 upwards. Sensible clothing is reasonably cheap. Membership of a Club could cost £20-£30 a year and most race entry fees are in the range £4-£8.

Don't you get laughed at?
It can't be denied that there are some idiots (usually overweight people in cars) who think that race walking looks funny. Don't take them on unless you're a judo expert or a lawyer; they're usually driving too fast for you to catch them, anyway. If other "athletes" mock, invite them to try it; remember to show proper sympathy when they collapse after fifty yards.

Is race walking a dying sport?
There are some who think so; even some inside the sport – who should know better – seem to have developed a sort of death-wish on the subject. Now, it is quite true that numbers are not as high as they were thirty years ago and the "When I was a lad...." brigade are always happy to report in doom-laden terms how the performances that brought them home in 127th place in some race or other would nowadays win them a medal. As often as not,  investigation reveals that their memories are wearing rose-tinted spectacles; either the field wasn't quite as big as their recollection tells them, or they weren't quite as sharp as they reckon. There was certainly a low point ten or twelve years ago, but annual counts of participants show a slow and unspectacular but steady rise. Internationally, it continues to grow; at the 2008 Olympic Games, 30 countries were represented in the women's 20k walk (as against, for example,  22 in the women's shot put and 18 in the women's 10,000m), so walking is well up. Don't believe the Moaning Minnies; race walking is on the up again!

Is it worth starting?
It follows from our previous answer that there are likely to be more race walkers next year than there are this, so the answer is "Yes." As the numbers of participants, although rising,  are still small it also follows that if you are good you are liable to have more success than in running – or, indeed, most other sports; in particular, team medals, although not given away for nothing, are more easily come by. New walkers with real talent will rapidly rise to the top; Johanna Jackson, the current British No.1, has gone from being a very decent cross-country runner to 22nd in the 2008 Olympic Games and first in the Commonwealth Games. You never know how you might flourish as a race walker – and you'll certainly be healthier.

What does it look like?

NOWADAYS, LIKE THIS [WORLD CUP, MEZIDON, FRANCE, 1999]

 SOME TOP MENTop Men

232 Korcok (Slovakia): 126 Pérez (Ecuador):
133 García (Spain)

SOME TOP WOMEN Top Women

122: Liu (China): 214 Ryashkina (Russia)


ONCE UPON A TIME, LIKE THIS [OLYMPIC GAMES, LONDON, 1908]

Larner & Webb
5 G.E. Larner: 15 E.J. Webb


I have to take medication; am I in danger of being banned?
Probably not. Most prescribed and over-the-counter preparations are safe, but there are some pitfalls lurking on the shelves, and even some "banned" substances are permitted if they are prescribed by a medical practitioner. It is the duty of the athlete to ensure that he is not taking a prohibited substance and useful information is available on the U.K.Sport section of the Drug Information Database web site, which you can search by clicking here. Please remember that taking drugs to improve your performance is cheating, is against the Rules and will be punished, usually by suspension from competition for a period of anything from a few months to life; it's not worth it!

How do I find out more?
Ask for our free Introductory Pack, by clicking here.

Where can I read about race walking?
The Race Walking Association has a monthly magazine called Race Walking Record and there is a page of this site dedicated to Books about Walking.
....AND FOR INFORMATION ON A PARTICULAR TOPIC, SEARCH THIS WEB SITE....

Search this Site with PicoSearch
....AND IF YOU STILL CANNOT FIND WHAT YOU WANT, ASK DIRECT TO:....
RaceWalkingAssociation@btinternet.com
 
RETURN TO INTERESTED IN WALKING?

You are in the page shaded below, or one of its sub-pages
About the R.W.A. About this Site Archives & Records Books F.A.Qs Fixtures
Guide Lighter Side Links More Info Officers Outside Contacts
Quick Index Race Walking Record Topical Links Venues Services
Home