Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Walker takes gold? Which one?

This Olympic headline put me in mind of this 1966 movie*—but as it turns out, this Walker is actually a runner. Which made me wonder, what about Olympic racewalking? Is it still around or did it go the way of Cary Grant movies and tasteful romantic comedy?**

Okay I know that I am the person that mocked beach volleyball (all in good fun, I promise!), but I really am interested in the state of Olympic racewalking. It's so handy that these questions can all be answered while sitting on my posterior in front of the computer.

Those of us who remember Seattle's Almost Live television show from the 80's and 90's might recall Bill Nye's "Speedwalker" character—the "physically fit superhero who fights crime while maintaining strict adherence to the regulations of the International Speedwalking Association (heel – toe, heel – toe)."

The actual definition of racewalking can be found in the USATF Rules: "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 leg is in the vertical upright position." Hmmm, sounds tricky. The key rule is that one foot must be on the ground at all times, and if you violate that rule, you will be disqualified!

In the 2008 Olympics, the racewalking events are Men and Women's 20K, and Men's 50K. I've been trying to find some sort of results from other racewalking events so I could get an idea of how fast these folks go, but numbers are very hard to come by. This blog says that the Olympic record (presumably men's) for a 20K is 1:18:59. If that's right, that's a pace of about 6:22 per mile—substantially faster than I've ever come close to running, particularly for a distance of 20K! That's just crazy!

Another thing I am having trouble finding is the actual racewalking event schedule for the Olympics. Probably because they have no intention of showing this on TV! However, I believe at least the women's event, and who knows, maybe the men's also, is tonight. I'll try check it out, just in case I can get a glimpse of some "heel toe, heel toe" action.

The start looks a lot like any other race.

Here you can see a hint of the characteristic gait.

You still need to hydrate!

The joy of victory (while keeping one foot on the ground at all times).

*Which, by the way, I saw on video, not in the theatre, as I was not even a year old when it came out.

**As opposed to some of the contemporary non-tasteful (but funny) romantic comedies... e.g.
Wedding Crashers, Knocked Up, There's Something About Mary, Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Or there's tasteful but not funny... e.g. Serendipity. Or not tasteful and not funny... e.g. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Because I Said So. I won't bother with tasteful enough but yet funny, because thank goodness there have still been a few of those over the last 20 years!

1 comment:

Laura said...

Have to say I love How To Lose a Guy in Ten Days... :)

As for racewalking, WOW! I had no idea they were so fast. I thought I was doing well with my 13:00 walking pace in Wyoming...