About Race Walk

The basics

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”.

Double contact phase photo credit: Jeff Salvage racewalk.com

Double contact phase
photo credit: Jeff Salvage racewalk.com

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”.

straighten knee, this form is maintained until it passes under the body photo credit: Jeff Salvage racewalk.com

straighten knee, this form is maintained until it passes under the body
photo credit: Jeff Salvage racewalk.com

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

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. 

14 Responses to About Race Walk

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  5. JT says:

    With racewalking, if you want to get faster at it, is it better to both run and racewalk or to just racewalk?

    • mushie0408 mushie0408 says:

      To gain the strength and muscle memory reqiured to master the technique of race walking requires repeated practice race walking. Therefore I would advise more race walking than running in the beginning in order for your stride to be fluid and thus allow you to be faster. However, if you are already in good cardio vascular shape, I would reccomend doing some running workouts to maintain cardio fitness until you are able to race walk at a fast enough pace that it feels like you are working. I personally primarily race walk and use running as a form of cross training to sneak in extra milage while giving my “race walking” muscles a rest. Hope that helps!

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  8. Julisa Juarez says:

    i have no idea if you’ll get this, but well hi  ! im 12 yrs old and im also a racewalker, i started when i was 10 & im in a racewalking club called the South Texas Walking Club (STWC) maybe you’ve heard of us or my coach A.C Jaime ,(we’re pretty well known) well i just wanted to say that your a big inspiration to me , until now , i really havent had anyone to look up to as a role model in racewalking. well thank you anyways and keep working hard!! i want be like u one day , and hopefully beat one your records ,if i can ;D

    • mushie0408 mushie0408 says:

      Hi Julisa! Great to hear from you, yes I have not only heard of your excellent club, South Texas Walking CLub (the turtles!) but have trained down in Texas with them a few times and really admire your coach, Coach Jaime! Keep up the great work, I am glad that you have been fortunate to begin race walking at such a young age! I was already 14 when I started, so by the time you are my age you will have an extra 4 years of experience. Pretty cool stuff! Best of luck with your training and racing, any big USATF or AAU meets coming up? Remember to always dream big, believe in yourself, and never stop until you become! I look forward to seeing your name move up through the age group results!

      • Julisa Juarez says:

        oh thanks ! Well we finished our USATF and AAU competions a few weeks ago , I got 3rd in USATF and broke my personal record and got 2nd in AAU but hopefully since im going to starting racewalking the 3000m I’ll be more prepared and top my competetors times and record times. My dad says he wants me to be the youngest racewalker to go to the olympics, and that would be soo awesome, but im sure that will take some hard work !!

  9. Emma Zanfardino says:

    Hi Maria! I’m 11 and I just graduated from wenonah elementary school
    I remember when you came to our school and told us about the oylimpics and race walking and from that day I was so excited for the oylimpics!
    I’m watching the race walking right now! And cheering you on
    Now I really want to learn how to race walk now do you know where I can start learning?
    I start middle school at samoset middle school in the fall I’ll be in 6th grade and I know I can’t play sports but is there a program for race walking?
    I live in nesconset also so if there is a program for race walking near by that you know of could you let me know?
    Thank you,
    Emma Zanfardino

    • mushie0408 mushie0408 says:

      Hi Emma,

      Thanks for watching my race! It was the best race of my life so far! In regards to info about where you can learn to race walk, there is an excellent club (I am biased since I belong to it lol) that practices once a week in Hauppauge. It is lead by Gary Westerfield and is called Walk USA. My sister (Katie) and many of the local high school girls are a part of this club. It typically practices Monday nights from 6-7pm. Although with the high school cross country season beginning, attendence to walk practice may die down a bit until winter track resumes mid november. I would contact Gary at garywesterfield@verizon.net and tell him who you are and that you are interested in learning to race walk! Looking forward to seeing you learn race walk soon!


  10. Concetta Patry says:

    Thanks a ton for this – love the info and agree with your perspective. However many others will not, so thanks for speaking up. Nice blog, well done!

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