Race walking is a discipline within track and field.
There a two rules that separate race walking from running.
1. A race walker must maintain contact with the ground. Unlike in running where the athlete is airborne mid stride, in race walking the athlete has a double support phase where both the back toe, and forward heel are on the ground. Thus the back toe cannot leave the ground until the forward foot makes contact. Violation of this rule is called “loss of contact”.
2. The second differentiation between race walking and running requires that the race walker’s supporting leg is straightened from the moment of contact with the ground and maintained until it passes under his/her body. Violation of this rule is called “bent knee”.
How are the rules of race walking enforced?
During a race there are race walk officials whose job is to monitor the athletes’ form with the unaided eye. If a judge believes an athlete is in violation of one of these rules he/she can show the athlete a paddle. The paddle is merely a “friendly” warning. A judge will submit a red card if he/she believes the athlete is in fact in violation. Three red cards per athlete results in a disqualification (DQ).
Left-loss of contact, middle-bent knee, right-DQ
Race walking and the Olympics
There are a total of three race walk events currently contested at the Olympic Games, 20k for women and 20k and 50k for men. The men’s 50k (31miles) race walk is the longest foot race in the Olympic Games. Men have been racing walking in the Olympics since 1904, with the exception of 1924. In 1992 the race walk was added for women originally at the 10k distance.