I hung out with Canada’s best race walkers, here’s what I learned

Recently, Jessica had a chance to chat with Canada's race walking team. She found that they had a lot of helpful advice for runners.

March 24th, 2017 by | Posted in Blogs, MissAdventures | Tags: , , ,


I am a strong proponent of the notion that no sport should be isolated. Runners often spend a lot of time learning from other runners, but there’s much to be learned from other sports. Body builders have hydration tricks nailed down. Golfers have mastered the mental game. Race walkers manage to cover similar distances to distance runners and so I feel like we can learn from their tactics too.

I had the opportunity to chat with Evan Dunfee, Inaki Gomez and Ben Thorne of Canada’s Race Walking Team and I took away ten big things that I can apply to my running.

1. When you feel an injury coming on, don’t be afraid to take some time off.

Evan Dunfee: In my entire athletic career, I’ve never missed more than a week of training. Sometimes I find that runners have the mentality that if you miss a day of training, you’ll lose all of your fitness. Don’t be afraid to take some time off if you feel something coming on. You’ll be thankful you did in the long run.

2. Treat workouts that you’re dreading like a high dive.

Ben Thorne: My least favourite workout is the 25 – 30 kilometre long walks. Instead of dreading them, I treat them like a high dive. I try not to overthink it, step out the door and go. 

3. Allow your coach to give you the tools to get more involved in your training.

Inaki Gomez: Our relationship with our coach is more of a mentor/mentee relationship. We’ve been successful because he has given us the tools to learn and manage things as we go. 

ED: Our coach Jerry offers self-empowerment through his coaching. He teaches you how to coach yourself and is more of a mentor or a life coach. We have grown so much as a team and it’s this coaching that has made a huge different. 

4. Don’t make it all about you.

ED: My greatest fear is that this will all end with us. My greatest accomplishment in sport would be to coach the kids that come up behind me and break my records. 

5. Recognize where your form needs improvement.

BT: I needed to work hard on my race walking technique, especially at the beginning. I used a special cue of scuffing my feet on the ground to master it. I may have almost torn a pair or two of shoes completely off my feet, but it was successful in giving me great form. 

6. Train with others who are strong where you are weak

ED: My least favourite workout is intervals, especially with Inaki and Ben. We all have different training strengths: Ben destroys us in fast, short intervals, Inaki holds a strong tempo better than Ben or I and I;m strongest in long distance. We balance each other out and push each other to be better. 

IG: There’s not much race walking exposure in Canada so our abilities really took off when we connected with fellow athletes in Australia and were exposed to successful athletes in the sport. When you train with the best and learn from the best, it’ll translate into something really special. 

7. Don’t try to balance everything

IG: I don’t think there’s any such thing as balance. Balance means you are giving an equal amount of attention to everything which is just not possible. Once you come to terms with it, it all becomes easier. You learn that some weeks, you take a bit more from one area and the next week, it is another area. This is how I balance training, racing, a career as a lawyer, involvement with Athletics Canada and being married. 

8. Practice Sportsmanship

ED: I wasn’t a great sport as a kid. After years learning from positive role models, I’ve changed my ways and am grateful that sport has an amazing way of fostering change in people. My best memory from Rio was in the doping control room after the race. Hirooki Arai was facing disqualification and came to me with his translator and at the same time, we apologized to each other in different languages and gave hugs. It made my decision not to appeal.

9. Share your victories

IG: My proudest athletic achievement to date was our team’s shared experience at the Rio Olympics. We’ve trained and pushed each other along the way so it was a group success.

10. Don’t take it for granted.

BT: My greatest fear is waking up one day and having all of my race walking talent disappear. Sometimes it still feels like a dream. 

As a final bonus, I asked each of them what their greatest piece of advice for runners was:

ED: Don’t be afraid to set the bar high. 

BT: Don’t take it too seriously.

IG: Never forget to have fun. It should be worth something to you. Otherwise there is no point. 

I will be returning to discuss what makes me successful in ultra-endurance running events, but until then, you can find me on Instagram at @lacesandlattes and on my personal blog.