Racewalking Information

Racewalking, or race walking, is a long-distance athletic event. Although it is a foot race, it is different from running in that one foot must appear to be in contact with the ground at all times. Stride length is reduced, so to achieve competitive speeds, racewalkers must attain cadence rates comparable to those achieved by Olympic 400-meter runners—and they must do so for hours at a time since the Olympic events are the 20 kilometer race walk and 50-kilometer race walk.

There are two rules that govern racewalking. The first dictates that the athlete's back toe cannot leave the ground until the heel of the front foot has touched. Violation of this rule is known as loss of contact. The second rule requires that the supporting leg must straighten from the point of contact with the ground and remain straightened until the body passes over it. These rules are judged by the human eye, which creates controversy at today's high speeds. Athletes may sometimes lose contact for a few milliseconds per stride which can be caught on high-speed film, but such a short flight phase is undetectable to the human eye.

Athletes stay low to the ground by keeping their arms pumping low, close to their hips. If one sees a racewalker's shoulders rising, it may be a sign that the athlete is losing contact with the ground. What appears to be an exaggerated swivel to the hip is, in fact, a full rotation of the pelvis. Athletes aim to move the pelvis forward, and to minimize sideways motion in order to achieve maximum forward propulsion. Speed is achieved by stepping quickly with the aim of rapid turnover. This minimizes the risk of the feet leaving the ground. Strides are short and quick, with pushoff coming forward from the ball of the foot, again to minimize the risk of losing contact with the ground. World-class racewalkers can average under seven and eight minutes per mile , in a 20 km racewalk.

Wikipedia, Racewalking, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racewalking (as of Apr 1, 2010)

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