By Judy Heller
Heller, founder of
Wonders of Walking LLC,
advocates walking for well being and pleasure. Wonders of Walking promotes
Walking Events for Walkers by Walkers. Judy Heller is founder and owner
of EroFit & Associates, LLC, celebrating Fitness for a Lifetime.
Heller offers personalized fitness training and coaching for individuals
Contact: Judy Heller
only went out
for a walk and
concluded to stay out until sundown,
For going out,
Was really going in.
.. a Sport
.. an Olympic Event
is exciting. It has been referred to as the ultimate athletic challenge.
Did you know it has been a Summer Olympic Track & Field event since
1908 for men and 1992 for women?
men and women compete in both the 20k and men only the 50k. A racewalker
can achieve running speed and yet not break stride into a run. This
is a judged event
. going the distance to cross the finish line
legally is the competitive challenge. The complexity of this endeavor
is as difficult as any other track event and requires athletic coordination.
is not only for those who want to compete at the international level.
It is also an extremely effective way to exercise for weight loss, getting
fit, or for those who wish to compete locally or nationally, or to have
we get started racewalking? Its inception in England, as are many of
our sporting events (fishing, hunting, boxing, rowing, horse racing
and trotting). Competitive walking can be traced to the late 16th or
early 17th century. The aristocracy of England employed footmen, whose
duties included carrying papers and messages, hurrying ahead to
make arrangements at inns for room and board. Owners began to match
their footmen against each others in races accompanied by
heavy betting, thus, the birth of professional pedestrianism.
pedestrianism had very few rules. The footmen must keep pace with their
master's carriages without running. The mode of movement was defined
as fair heel and toe; although they were allowed to trot
to ward off cramping. This progressed from private races to public
foot races, where bettors lined the highways to place their wager as
raced one another over coach roads; by the 18th century man was racing
time over long distances. The original centurion walking 100 miles within
a 24-hour period is Foster Powell who, in 1773, became the first to
walk against the clock. He walked London to York and back in 5 days
18 hours, an average of 72 miles a day.
of the 18th century raced against time; at the turn of the 19th century
man was racing against man. Pedestrianism became the most popular sport
until the 1820s, that walking contests began in America. Celebrity walkers
would draw crowds of 25,000 from town to town. Imagine! With the arrival
of the English immigrants in the 1830s, also came a tradition for competitive
sports. Organizers and promoters began having races on private race
tracks in large urban centers.
began to test the limits of physical endurance in contests modeled after
the British. Nicholas Low walked 200 miles in 200 hours; Thomas Elsworth
walked 1,000 miles on the Cambridge Trotting Course. Even though pedestrianism
was growing in America, it was not as popular as in Britain. John Cummings
suggests the resistance to sports can be attributed to puritan attitudes
in American society. Preachers were against sports that emphasized betting;
newspapers ignored or opposed the contests. The principal spectator
sport was horse racing, which was approved as it was improving the equine
early 1850s though, newspapers did begin reporting sports accomplishments.
Pedestrianism grew rapidly, equaling horse racing and yacht racing.
According to George Moss the most popular races were those from 10 to
50 miles with purses of $1,000 and 25,000 spectators. (The annual salary
during this time was $250.) In 1878 women began to compete in long distance
events for money. Ada Anderson earned $10,000 for walking 3,000 quarter
miles in 3,000 quarter hours.
age of pedestrianism in America is considered to be the last half
of the 19th century. Racewalking emerged as a legitimate sport at the
turn of the century, along with the rise in athletic clubs and the demise
of professional pedestrianism. It was off to a good start, but faded
in the 1920s as other sports dominated. The '30s and '40s lack any luster,
unable to capture the interest of the American public. The 1960s saw
the emergence of Ron Laird, Ronald Zinn, Rudolph Haluza, and Larry Young.
These men were national champions as well as Olympians. Racewalking
history in America from the mid-20th century has been largely one of
individual dedication, effort, and achievement. Todd Scully broke a
6-minute mile on June 6, 1977, covering the distance in 5:52.2
walking not running.
until the 1960s that women really began to emerge as participants in
the sport of racewalking in America. In 1971 the first 5K racewalk for
women took place. Jeanne Bocci, Lynn Burke, Katie MacIntyre, and Brenda
Whitman are standouts from that event. Each decade has continued to
produce some brilliant female racewalkers: Debbie Lawrence, Theresa
Vaill, Michelle Rohl, Joanne Dow, Danielle Kirk to name a current few.
strength, and endurance are common to most athletic events, racewalking
is no exception, but has the added dimension in that it is a judged
event. A walker can be disqualified if the rules are not followed. The
technique is unique. The challenge and reward lie in its mastery.
swimmers, and cyclists are discovering that racewalking is a perfect
cross- training sport. Walkers are discovering the joy of hitting the
streets, as they challenge themselves to a new technique with increased
you don't need to race to be a racewalker... the challenge
This information adapted from Gordon Wallace's thesis, The History
of Racewalking and Casey Meyers book, Walking: Complete
Guide to the Complete Exercise. Special thanks to Don Jacobs for
providing Gordon Wallace's thesis.