Racewalk is a division of track and field and road racing that is largely overlooked. I mean, if it's a race, why don't they just run, right? Well, for one, the race is a lot longer than most, and also, it takes a lot more discipline than that.
Racewalking is different from your average leisurely stroll for two reasons. One, there are rules pertaining to form and such, and two, it's a race, godammit!
The rules of racewalking are basically the same as those of track races and road races (no shoving, no cutting off, no stepping on the line, etc.) with two additions.
- The participant must maintain contact with ground with at least one foot at all times.
- The participant must keep the leg straightened (unbent knee) from the point at which the foot touches the ground until the legs is entirely vertical and beneath the participant.
These rules change the form greatly from that of a stroll in the park to an efficient, cruising walking machine. Also, it clearly makes the racer walk, not run, at all times. Most races allow up to three breaks in form before disqualify
ing a participant.
These rules of form physically change the racer a lot. There is much more of an emphasis on hip swiveling and less on striding. Cadence is of incredible importance. And with this much restriction, strategy and pacing are incredibly important.
Most racewalks are at least 5k in length (about 3.1 miles) which is rather short, if you consider that some races are ten times as long. There are no kicks in racewalk. You cannot put on a sudden surge and leave your opponent 30 meters behind. Every move you make is incredibly obvious to everyone around you, and they have plenty of time to react, so subtlety is a must.
People always compare racewalking to running. Everybody has run at one time or another, so you know what it feels like. The total exhaustion, the burning lungs and thighs. Ask a racewalker if it "hurts," and they usually say, "Yes, but it's a different hurt." This is because it is a very aerobic activity, so there is little to no oxygen debt. Also, the muscles stressed are different. In running, the hamstrings, quads, and calves are mainly used, while racewalking uses the hips, glutes, and shins. Also, with the longer races being more common in racewalks, physical exhaustion is a factor.