Yes, race walking is an Olympic sport. Here’s how it works.


In 1908, Olympics founder Pierre de Coubertin
spoke the phrase that would become the Olympic creed: “The important thing in life is not
the triumph, but the fight. The essential thing is not to have won, but
to have fought well.” This is the fight. This is race walking. Why are they walking like that? This is an Olympic event where men and women
walk 20 kilometers. 12.4 miles. And men go as far as 50 kilometers — 31
miles! And the best go at less than 7 minutes a mile. 7 minutes. It’s hypnotic and — you know, with all that
hip action — it’s very dancey. They look like they’re rushing to the bathroom. Tell me, do we know why they walk like that? Phil, we’re in luck — we do know why they’re
walking like that. People study this. There are actually dozens of papers about
race walking. I talked to one researcher who wrote his PhD
thesis on the biomechanics of the race walk. He has studies with names like “Kinematic
characteristics of elite men’s 50 km race walking.” This is some serious science here. OK, so they actually study why race walkers
walk like that. Yeah, they don’t just study it — they track
it. This little Tron like thing that is on the
screen with the race walker, this is an actual top race walker who they’ve studied how she
walks. Yeah, this is a top race walker. They are tracking her every articulation of
the joint, they’re seeing what makes her go so fast while walking. There’s a good reason why they walk like that. They’re pushing their bodies to the extreme. They have to conform to one very important
number: 230.2. What is 230.2? You don’t know 230.2? No, what is 230-2? It is the rule of race walking. Researcher Brian Hanley explains. “There’s one rule, it’s rule 230.2.” Judges use rules to make sure people are walking,
not running. There’s a big difference. “So one part states that you can’t have any
visible loss of contact with the ground.” So if one foot is kind of in the air, like
this, then another has to be on the ground? Or at least to the human eye? Yeah, walkers can trick the judges for about
40 milliseconds. So you know when you’re running, there’s this
point where you have no feet on the ground, it’s kind of crazy if you watch that in slow
motion of how people run — we’re kind of jumping from one foot to the other. Judges are looking out for this. They call it “flight time.” And it’s illegal. And judges do boot people out. So it’s kinda like traveling in basketball
— sometimes these guys’ll take an extra step, and if the ref doesn’t catch it or call
it, it just means they’re a good player, it means they know what they’re doing. You figured it out. It’s all about that. If the judges can’t see, flight time flies. “And the other rule is that the knee must
be straightened from when you make first contact with the ground until it passes under your
body.” OK, so it looks like they almost kind of lock
their knee. “That’s what gives it its sort of unusual
look.” The speed of your walk is your stride length
times your stride frequency. So you can take long steps or fast steps,
ideally you’re gonna do both. But race walkers have a limited stride length. They can’t jump. They can’t bend their knee. They can’t run. So they have to figure ways to step faster. They rotate their pelvis like this. “So that helps them get longer steps.” OK. And they also drop their hips down lower. “It will keep your center of mass low. So you don’t end up with a bouncing motion. You kind of end up with a smooth motion.” It does look really smooth, if you just look
at their upper body. It’s just a straight line, there is no bouncing. They walk in a very straight line. “Race walkers put their feet in a straight
line. A good analogy is like a tightrope — it
helps them do that rotation of the pelvis, it makes their steps longer.” So basically, these walkers figured out how
to fit the rules and make walking more efficient, but more efficient ends up looking kind of
weird. That looks weird to you, but this is strategy. The best athletes look for an edge. Bicyclists drift to reduce wind resistance,
wrestlers dehydrate to lower their weight class, and race walkers… They wiggle. OK, I got it. I have one more question. Ugh, fine. OK, so is this actually fun to watch? Yeah, it actually is. Because it’s so cutthroat and exhausting. Plus, there’s this:
“But it’s really interesting as well, because you never know who’s going to win, because
they can always get disqualified. So it makes it more exciting than running
is. You can see the real, sort of, human struggle
in it.” And we can learn things from this struggle. “Race walkers are walking differently, because
they’ve got these rules, it forces them to walk a different way, and that can teach us
more about normal people walking.” We’re all walking based on rules. Rules our body sets. The way we’re built. Like the bounce in this guy’s step, or how
this woman swings her arm. That’s the excitement of sports. You’re giving people these absurd, sometimes
really absurd, rules, these confines to work within. And we know what the rules are. The drama is how people deal with them. Getting disqualified from an elite race walking
race would be a brutal blow, so they try to keep it fair. Most rules require that three different judges
each give you a red card before you can be disqualified from a race.

100 thoughts on “Yes, race walking is an Olympic sport. Here’s how it works.

  1. I’ve actually done race walk races and it’s extremely hard. I go to William Penn University and I’m on the track team here and since we’re are in the NAIA instead of the NCAA, race walking is an actual event. I did the 3k racewalk at my conference championship for indoor season and finished 9th in the conference. The training absolutely destroys your shins and after about 250m of the race you feel a constant burn up your legs. The training is just like any other distance runner besides you walk instead of run. I did 800m repeats walking, 200m intervals, it’s very similar. The worst part is the judges. I got to two fouls during the championships and it’s extremely scary knowing if I plant my leg wrong and buckle at the knee or push off to hard and lift off the ground for a fraction of a second near a judge, it could all be for nothing. It’s an awesome sport that looks goofy but people should definitely look into

  2. This is exactly what my buddy and I used to do in High School sometimes to joke around. We walk raced- it looked real funny too

  3. Join me on the Zurich 20km city run; race walk for me 😉 just because for the sake of creating what suits you the best (knee injury makes it more challenging) yayyy

  4. It just looks so bad for your hips and spine and knees from some reason. I can't picture why, but the rounded stiffness of the torso when running just looks healthier despite the higher impact on the knee and ankles.

  5. Please read this.
    I'm a teen who entered a competition but i need likes before the end of april to make it. Please go on insta at miss_ghana_russia and like the 9th pic Maria . Don't forget it's the 9th pic Maria. Thank you

  6. I used to do this in high school we call it walkathon and yes some times you get cramps and it's painful.

  7. in high school i was a sprinter and we'd see these mfers walking in the inner lanes and always thought they were warming up or something. Then one day I ran into one and told em to stop walking on the track n they explained to me its a sport 😂

  8. My uncle was a winner in a few race walking competitions. My other uncle was a track star. Both my parents did sports back in Kenya…mom did field hockey. Can't remember what dad did. But I think they also did track. And there is me. Growing up people would ask me if im a runner..was it because I was Kenyan…or I…looked like I would be a good runner? All I know is I hated running and would come in almost last, if not dead last in our mile races we had to do every few months in school. My fastest mile was in HS, at like 9:36. LOL. The only other best ive had was doing a 6 mile bike trail in under 15 minutes, months before it took me 45 minutes and was pure torture, lol.

    Now 34…some reason, they were in my recommends, I just began watching these track and field competitions…first time I ever watched Usain Bolt, WOW JUST WOW, and there are a whole lot of Kenyans I didnt even know we compete in these races lol! Anyway…im feeling a motivated to get into some training…I have always wanted to win a charity run (do you win those?lol) and always wanted to compete in at least one of those obstacle course events they have…like Spartan!

  9. This would be my godmothers favourite sport. She walks faster than these guys (atleast when she was 60) past the airport and back without breaking a sweat. Even while she was battling cancer and losing her hair.. she just tied a bandana to cover it and I'd see her walking around 4 to the airport with the occasional visit to my grandma.. i never realized that she was actually exercising when I thought she just had places to go or Bingo lol.

  10. Stranger : aren't you the that one gold medalists
    Race walker: yes I have three gold medals in race walking
    Stranger*starts walk away *: sure

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