Club Northwest Racewalking
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Copyright 2012
Club Northwest
RACEWALKING by Stan Chraminski


At some point you will want to test yourself in a race. Our informal Second Saturday races are a great way to start.There are many opportunities considering walkers are welcome at most running events as well as the more limited walking only events. For your first race, pick a flat course and short distance. Hilly courses are very tough on the knees as walkers straighten the leg rather than flexing on the downhills. It is also very difficult to walk legally downhill. A short distance is good if you don't have racing experience because there is a natural tendency to start way too fast. In a short race your can usually get through it even if you start too quickly.

After a few shorter races you will learn pacing and can tackle longer challenges. It has been shown that fairly even pacing is the most efficient use of effort and makes for the fastest times. Starting too fast usually results in a big slowdown and starting too slowly can leave you feeling good at the finish but not doing your best time. Even pacing is more important in walking than in running because of the form requirement. If you get too tired, it will be difficult to walk legally in the important latter stages of the race. The top walkers gradually accelerate throughout a race.

The main top level racing distances in walking are the Olympic distances of 20 Kilometers for women and 20 KM and 50 KM for men. The 50 KM racewalk at 31 miles is the longest Olympic event. Most races are, however, held at shorter distances. One mile, 3KM (1.86 miles) and 5 KM (3.1 miles) and 10K are also very popular and don't require quite the training commitment. Walking is intended to be a distance sport however and I've found that the short distances require such intense effort that longer distances with lesser intensity are more fun to race. It will all depend on your own mental and physical makeup and abilities. If your talent is speed, the shorter events may well be your strong point. For those like me with more endurance muscles, the longer distances are more enjoyable.

Top competitive distances are long because it is difficult to judge legal form at the high speeds world class walkers travel. The women's world record pace for 10Km is well under 7 minutes per mile and the world record for the men's 50KM race is under 7 minutes per mile! Training distances will depend on your racing goals. 50 KM walkers at top levels walk 125-150 miles a week. Obviously this is all most of them do. Your own schedule and demands will determine what is possible for you. To race well at 10KM requires a minimum of 30-40 miles a week, with speed sessions and some longer walks of 2 or more hours. During the base season, some 50-60 miles a week should be done to build up the needed strength.

20 KM walkers should do 50-60 miles a week with a good mix of speed sessions and distances up to 3 hours. To race 50KM, a minimum of 70-80 miles a week is necessary with walks of 5 hours or more common. You can finish these distances on less mileage, but you cannot expect to reach top level times or your own top potential on much less. You can somewhat get around the total training needed if you can at least do the high mileage every other or every third week.

You want to vary your workouts in the hard-easy system anyway. So, if it's impossible to walk 70-90 miles every week, go for high and low weeks where you at least hit the high every few weeks. Work your high weeks in when your work or family schedules are lighter and go easier on busier weeks.