30 Aug

Time For Race Walking To Jog On?

Race walkers

Is it time for race walking to be removed from the Olympic programme, asks regular contributor Chris Broadbent.

I am a huge fan of athletics and so, I found London’s World Athletics Championships a hugely enjoyable occasion. Although there were no world records, there were some memorable contests across 10 days in the English capital.

As an endurance runner, I particularly enjoy the middle and long distance races, but I am also able to quite happily enjoy anything from the pole vault to the hammer. But, there is one event I can no longer speak up for. I just can’t pretend anymore.

Apologies to the small, but passionate advocates of race walking, but I simply cannot take it seriously anymore. Surely as the sport looks to modernise it is time to consign race walking to the Olympic dustbin alongside rope climbing, swimming obstacle racing and two-handed javelin throwing.

Of course, it is ripe for ridicule given the strange techniques, straight out of a Monty Python sketch, to ensure that at least one foot is touching the ground at all times.

I also recognise that the walkers are dedicated and super fit. But I can no longer accept it as a true test of the greatest levels of athleticism. An American journalist I once knew described it as “like a competition to see who can whisper the loudest". For me, that pretty much nails it.

Every other event in athletics, the competitors are straining, stretching every sinew to be the fastest, highest, strongest. Not in race walk, where they have to confine and restrict their efforts within the parameters of walking. They can be – and frequently are – disqualified for both feet leaving the ground enabling them to move quicker.

Can you imagine Mo Farah or Usain Bolt having to employ the same technique as all their rivals, effectively levelling the playing field by restricting their athletic brilliance?

Can we really consider race walkers the absolute elite of endurance sport? Leading nations Kenya, Ethiopia, USA and Great Britain have few – if any competitors at the top level. It cannot be because they do not have an abundance of talented athletes who could potentially be world class. No, it is that race walking simply lacks credibility.

Dare I say it, but are world and Olympic race walkers athletes who are simply not good enough to make it as runners?

Sorry race walking, but it’s time to take a hike.


  1. Douglas Anderson said...

    Unfair. Requires a whole different mind-set and discipline. Is hopstepjump any more natural ? Why must things continually be updated and made more spectator friendly ?

    Applying similar arguments, shouldn't there only be one official running race, it's all just running after all, only the distance changes ! ( I don't actually agree, just pointing out the argument )

  2. John Constandinou said...

    If the author had attended the walks on The Mall he would have seen the highest expression of athleticism and truly appreciated it just like the 15,000 spectators who attended on the day, providing roars of support to competitors from more countries than any other event had at the Championship. Rather, he judges and condemns it casually from his armchair.

    Contrary to what is stated, there WAS a World Record set at the World Championships - and coincidentally in the race walk. Not paying attention Chris?

    Whispering is to talk quietly, so "Whispering the loudest" implies that walking is simply running slowly - a silly comparison.

    "Not good enough to make it as runners"?! I am a lowly race walker but have beaten many thousands of runners of the years when I walked in running races, and earned the respect of all runners.

    And finally, how can he condemn an event which requires a specific technique, when so do pole vault, high jump, hammer, javelin, etc?

    If Chris Broadbent is open minded, he is welcome to come and see the Festival of Racewalking in Hillingdon on 1st October. He would be made most welcome, and we look forward to converting him into a race walking fan like many runners before him.