What is Race Walking?
Race Walking differs from running in that the athlete is required to familiarise themselves with correct race walking technique in order to maintain contact with the ground whilst trying to move forward as fast as possible. The technique of the athlete is therefore of paramount importance and is governed by Rule 230 of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) rule 230 and defined as:
“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 shall be straightened (i.e. not bent at the knee) from the moment of first contact with the ground until in the vertical upright position.”
Athletes are scrutinised during an event by a team of judges. The aim of the judges is to get as many athletes to the finish line ensuring that they are complying with the rules of race walking. A judge will issue a caution to an athlete by way of showing them a yellow paddle if the judge has concerns about an athlete's mode of progression, where they feel the athlete is in danger of breaking one of the two rules mentioned above. The yellow paddle will bear a symbol either > (for bent knee) or ~ (for loss of contact) and this will inform the athlete which element of the rule they are in danger of contravening. The judicial use of these cautions is how a judge may legally assist an athlete in getting to the finish line.
When a judge sees an athlete obviously not complying with either aspect of Rule 230 then the judge will issue a Red Card against the athlete, this is a notice for disqualification. The Red Card should be delivered to the Chief Judge immediately. When the Chief Judge receives three red cards from three different judges all for the same athlete then that athlete shall be disqualified from the race by the Chief Judge showing them a red paddle. Only the chief judge can disqualify an athlete.
A judge should wherever possible show a yellow caution paddle to an athlete prior to issuing a Red Card.
In competitions held under IAAF rule 1.1 a, b, c, d and f the Chief Judge has the power to disqualify an athlete in the last 100m of the race when their mode of progression obviously fails to comply with Rule 230.1 regardless of the number of Red Cards that athlete has received. An athlete disqualified under these circumstances shall be allowed to finish the race.
Race Walking Mechanics
Foot Action: A strong heel-toe action with the driving foot (rear) and front foot acting in a straight line with full extension and flexing of the ankle joints.
Leg Action: By ensuring heel contact with the ground, smooth, rhythmic strides with continuous contact ensure a straight supporting leg in the vertical position. A strong rear leg drive is needed.
Hip Action: As an extension of the leg, a smooth forward movement with as little vertical and lateral movement as is necessary.
Arm Action: Elbows bent at 90 degrees relaxed at the shoulders with a natural swing, without crossing the mid-line in front of the trunk, and a strong drive with the elbow high behind the trunk.
Trunk Position: Trunk kept upright and relaxed with a slight forward lean from the ankles as the rear leg drives the body forward.
Race Walking: An Olympic Sport
Race Walking has been part of the Olympic Games since 1908 and features in World Championships at various levels, European Championships, Pan American Games, Commonwealth Games, All Africa Games and other international, continental and local track and field meetings.
Nicolene Cronje made South African history as the second ever Race Walker to be sent to the London Olympic Games in 2012, since George Hazel who represented South Africa in the 20km and 50km race walking events at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Marc competed in the 50km race walk and bettered his own SA record in a time of 3hr55min32sec.
Which Walking Events can I Participate in?
1. WPA Track Walks (forming part of Track & Field season)
Competitors walk on an athletic track with laps of 400m each. Distances raced mainly on track are 1 500m, 3 000m, 5 000m and 10 000m for both men and women. Longer distances such as the 20km, 30km and 50km races would comprise generally of a 2km loop on a road surface just outside the track or at a more convenient venue.
Strict judging for correct race walking technique is enforced by a team of race walking judges positioned around the track according to the IAAF Rule Book.
Masters Walkers can qualify for Provincial or National colours in South Africa subject to certain qualifying criteria. Please refer to WPA Masters Committee for more information.
2. WPA Race Walking Grand Prix events
There are four (4) Grand Prix events held throughout the year. These are held on a 2km track or route. Distances vary from 30km, 20km and 10km down to 5km, 3km and 1km for young development athletes. These events are judged for correct race walking technique. They are also used to select athletes who will represent WPA at the SA Race Walking Championships each year.
It also creates an excellent opportunity for clubs wishing to have their younger development walkers participate in shorter distances which is not always available at provincial competitions.
Masters Walkers can qualify for Provincial or National colours in South Africa subject to certain qualifying criteria. Please refer to WPA Masters Committee for more information on this.
3. WPA Road League Walks
These league walks are held in conjunction with road running races with the start ten (10) minutes after the running event. Distances are kept to 10km and are on a tarred road surface, generally following the same route as the running race. WPA clubs hosting these events would encourage more walkers to participate by having age category prizes as well as the normal open and junior prize categories.
There is normally a series of ten (10) league walks over the year that will qualify a walker to score individual points to become the top male or female walker for each calendar year. These points also count toward overall interclub points. Points are calculated according to League Performance Tables based on finishing time performances in a 5-year age category with a maximum of ten points earned per race. The top walking club for the year is eligible to win the League floating trophy. League Performance Tables are obtainable from the WPARWC.
Competitors must wear official club colours, provincial licenses, and age category tags and a “WALKER” tag on the back and front of their vests to qualify for league points and prizes. Novice walkers are encouraged to participate and will be able to compete as long as they wear a temporary license. Junior walkers must wear a “J” tag on the front and back of their vest. “WALKER” tags are compulsory for prize money winnings at all league races.
These league races are judged according to our own domestic WPA rules which are more relaxed, because the IAAF competition rule does not make provision for these road races. They are judged for correct race walking technique by three (3) judges who will be on the road following the athletes in their vehicles. They will roam the route, covering all the front athletes and then moving to the back of the field of walkers to identify athletes "failing to comply" with proper race walking technique.
A judge may show a yellow paddle to an athlete if an athlete is "in danger of failing to comply" with proper race walking technique, which is aimed to assist the athlete, so that they can correct their walking technique. Running in a walking race will automatically disqualify a walker.
When a walker who has been disqualified by the judges, reaches the finishing line, the Chief Judge will inform him/her that they have been disqualified. Their race card will be removed from the finishing results board making the athlete ineligible for any prize money. The official results will also reflect a DQ next to that athlete’s name.
4. Social Walks
These would be “walking-only” races where there is normally no prize money but everybody receives a finishing medal. These races are not normally affiliated to WPA and normally organised by charity or sponsored organisations. (Examples: The Big Walk, Blisters for Bread and Jive Walk)
Running events that attract large numbers of walkers are also considered Social walks as there will be no judging for correct technique and no prize money offered specifically for walkers. These would be referred to as “walker-friendly” races. (Examples: Spar Ladies race or shorter fun runs)
2013 Events Fixtures
Please refer to the WPA section in this hand book on fixtures or contact the WPARWC secretary for a copy of all walking races for 2013. A calendar of walking events can also be viewed at www.wpa.org.za.
WPA Race Walking Development Strategy
The WPARWC encourages clubs to start development groups for walking in their clubs and also to ensure that walking is a discipline offered to all members alongside road running, cross country and Track & Field.
The WPARWC will offer its services to assist clubs to get their own development squads started and will also identify areas in which they wish to partner with clubs to start such groups.
The WPARWC has successfully implemented a development group in Masiphumelele which has been running successfully for the past few years.
The WPARWC will also be hosting some training programs and clinics during the year.
The WPARWC has a full list of walking races that can be displayed on your club notice board and website.
A DVD to promote Race Walking in the Western Province is also available from the WPARWC secretary at a small cost.
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 shall be straightened (i.e. not bent at the knee) from the moment of first contact with the ground until the vertical upright position.