what is race walking?
- Race walking is a middle to long-distance discipline and internationally recognised athletics discipline.
- Although a foot race, it is different from running in that one foot must appear to be in contact with the ground at all times.
- Race walking events are included in the Olympic Games programme with Olympic distances of 20km and 50km; World Athletics Championships and the World Athletics Race Walking Cup - a stand-alone global competition for the discipline
- Distances competed range from 3,000 metres, 5 miles, 10km, 15km up to 100km, 100 miles, 24 hours, 28 hours and muti day races
- Races are held on both track and road and many domestic races are now held within park spaces rather than on open roads
- Race walking is a technical sport and competitions are assessed by race judges. Athletes must follow the rules as determined by the sport's governing bodies ie World Athletics (formerly IAAF -International Amateur Athletics Association) and by the individual country athletic bodies.
Unlike other "types" of walking, race walking is a a technical athletic sport. It has rules as to how you should walk and has judges to ensure you comply with the rules.
But it is a very rewarding sport. Walking with a race walking or athletics club is about so much more than physical exercise. It’s about joining a community that has the power to change your life. And, when it comes to long and ultra distance walkers like the Centurions, then it is a very special family of walkers.
Race walking competitions take place on track and on road and cover a huge amount of distances from 3,000 metres through to 100miles and even longer. Obviously, the Centurions are interested in 100 miles and 24 hour races but we all compete in the shorter and longer races.
Any race walking records, best performances, etc, must be achieved in a race walk with accredited race walking judges present.
Race walking technique
Definition of Race Walking: World Athletics Technical Rules, Rule 54.2
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 must be straightened (i.e. not bent at the knee) from the moment of first contact with the ground until the vertical upright position.
The World Athletics Rules of Competition cover the whole spectrum of athletics- much of which is devoted to the elite and "high end" of international competition - track & field, road races, etc. But we need to be sure that we all comply with the rules - whether we are competing or organising a race.
Most countries operate under the international definition and adhere to the World Athletics rules and their national athletic/race walking rules. [World Athletics cover races up 100km but not 100 miles or 24hours....]
The UK operates under the rules of the race walking governing body- the Race Walking Association (RWA) in conjunction with England Athletics which in turn operates under the World Athletics rules and regulations.
more on race walking
why race walk?
Benefits are cardiovascular: pulse and breathing are raised well above resting levels and walking has the advantage over running because there is none of the jarring through the feet, ankles, knees, hips and spine that can be the cause of many running injuries.
Racewalking also offers opportunities to compete and to achieve national standing for people of all ages.
Racewalking burns more calories per mile than regular walking as the straight leg technique forces you to use more muscles. You might use racewalking as a way to boost the intensity of your walking workouts. It can raise your heart rate from the moderate intensity level to the vigorous intensity level.
see more on the Why walk? page
The sport emerged from a British culture of long-distance competitive walking known as pedestrianism, which began to develop the rule-set that is the basis of the modern discipline around the mid-19th century. There were many 24 hours and multiday competitions in the UK and the USA with prize money for the winners.
read more about the early years of ultra walking
In the UK the Centurion 100 mile race is designated a ‘B’ race which means that only the contact rule is followed..
Some Centurion race organisers and governing bodies have specific rules to govern their races. These can range from a "no pacing" rule to what you are allowed to wear.
Race walking timeline
- 19th century Pedestrianism was founded. Pedestrianism was a form of competitive walking. The origin of race walking is in Pedestrianism.
- 1809 Robert Barclay Allardice walked 1,000 miles (1609,344 km) in 1 hour.
- 1864 Emma Sharp walked 1,000 miles.
- 1866 Walkers organised the first English Amateur Walking Championship, which was won by John Chambers.
- 1870’s 6 Day Race became a standard footrace distance.
- 1878 In the UK, member of Parliament Sir John Astley founded a "Long Distance Championship of the World" or 6 Days World Championship.
- 1893 Race Walking was included when the International Olympic Committee formed in 1893.
- 1904 In the 1904 Olympic Games (St. Louis, USA), the "all-rounder" event, father of the decathlon, included an 880-yard walk.
- 1908 Race Walking first appeared in the Olympics Games (London)
- 1911 Brotherhood of Centurions (UK) was formed
- 1932 Olympic Games Los Angeles (USA) 50 KM Men Tommy Green (Great Britain)
- 1936 Olympic Games Berlin (Germany) 50 KM Men Harold Whitlock (Great Britain)
- 1956 New IAAF Rule said that "during the period of each step in which a foot is on the ground, the leg shall be straightened at least for one moment". Modern Race Walking born.
- 1960 Olympic Games Rome (Italy) 50 KM Men Don Thompson (GBR) Gold Medal. Centurion
- 1964 Olympic Games Tokyo (Japan) 20 KM Men Ken Matthews (Great Britain)
- 2011 Centenary of British Centurions - celebratory dinner at the House of Commons
- 2012 Olympic Games London (Great Britain) 50 KM Men Dominic King (GB) Centurion
- 2016 Olympic Games Rio 50 KM Men Dominic King (GB) Centurion
- 2017 IAAF World Championships London 50 KM Men Dominic King (GB) Centurion
- 2019 IAAF World Championships Doha 50 KM Men Dominic King (GB) Centurion