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Curious about race walking? Here’s how to give it a try

Do not judge the book on race walking by its cover

Evan Dunfee Photo by: Photo: Rob Shaer/Canada Running Series.

Every four years, race walking tends to cause a stir among the general public at the summer Olympic games. Maybe it’s the unusual movement, or the fact that ‘walking’ is in the title of the event. What the public doesn’t understand is how similar race walking is to running – and that most race walkers were runners before getting into the sport. Race walking (like running) is a foot race, but it diffs from running in that one foot must be on the ground at all times. 

Boston marathoner, race-walking coach and host of “The Running Dad PodcastNoel Paine spoke to us about the sport and how to get started. “Most race walkers come into the sport from running, as a less impactful activity on the body,” he says. “Some of the similarities it has to running is the mileage you have to put in to become faster and to build your technique.” Technique is the key, he adds: “Your technique limits how fast you can go. If you have good technique, the sky’s the limit, therefore, focusing on your technique early on is important.” 

RELATED: What you never thought to ask about race walking

What is the ideal race-walking technique? Here are a few pointers.

  • Keep your legs straight, striding through your hips and torso
  • Avoid leaning too far forward or sitting back 
  • Keep your body posture relaxed, and try to walk tall
  • Engage your abdominal muscles and keep them firm. Most of your power will come from your core

Over time, you can work on your cadence and try to increase your strides per minute as you improve. “Try race walking 1 km on your next run, and time yourself…while ‘staying legal,’” says Paine. Canadian Olympian and fourth-place finisher in Rio 2016, Evan Dunfee has been a big role model for Paine. They became friends in 2018 and have shared knowledge and tips. 

The race walking at Tokyo 2020 will begin in Sapporo on Aug. 5 with the 20 km event, followed by the 50 km event on Aug. 6, with our Canadian contingent consisting of Evan Dunfee and Mathieu Bilodeau. You can follow every second of the race walking events at Tokyo 2020 on CBC Gem or cbc.ca/olympics.

RELATED: Evan Dunfee shatters his own Canadian record in the 10,000m race walk