Competitive walking – A spectator sport?
Yes! According to the American Council on Exercise competitive walking was America’s number 1 spectator sport before baseball. Large crowds would pack Madison Square Garden in the 1870s and 1880s to watch and bet on men walking around in circles covering 600 miles during the 6 day event.
Race walking enters the Olympics in 1904
Over one hundred and forty+ years later competitive walking holds a prominent place for spectators at all levels in the United States and throughout the world. Race walking was first featured as a 1/2 mile race at the Olympics in 1908 and in 1932 was expanded to the current distance of 50km and it took more than 84 years for women to be able to participate in race walking at the Olympics. The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo will feature 3 competitive walking events: the 50km and 20km for men and a 20km for women, while leading international competitions such as the IAAF World Athletic Championships both women’s and men’s divisions in the competitive 50km race walking category.
Competitive walking for all
Competitive race walking combines the endurance of a long distance runner with the attention to technique of a hurdler or shot putter. Athletics Scholarships describes race walking this way, “In race walking, there is a rule known as the “straight leg rule,” which means the moment the leading foot touches the ground and until the leg passes under the center of the body, the knee is not allowed to bend. Athletes are penalized for bending their knees, as their knee passes under the body or when one of their feet are not touching the ground, which is why form and technique are very important in this sport.” Often competitive walkers complete a race, only to learn later that they were disqualified. Race walking events are available year round, indoors and out with events for Masters and Youth.
More fun facts about walking
While competitive walking may not be for everyone, walking has many benefits, here’s a few from the American Council on Exercise:
- Walking just 21 minutes a day can cut your risk of heart disease by 30%
- Walking can boost creativity by up to 60%
- Reducing 1 1/2 miles of driving with walking can reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced by 75%
- Walk to the beat of “Shut Up and Dance” and you’ll be going about 3.5 miles per hour. If you can keep up with “Shake It Off” you’ll be walking more than 5 mph
- A typical pair of athletic shoes will last for approximately 500 miles of walking.
Find more fun facts in this toolkit from the American Council on Walking.
Love to walk but your feet are not cooperating?
Wherever you walk, stand or move stress is placed on your feet and sometimes a little extra support may be needed. At Elite Feet USA we will look at how you move, stand and walk and can even do that from the comfort of your own home – wherever you live. Tammy Harbison will evaluate your needs and consult with you – providing you with the most professional and trusted support.
So what are you waiting for – get your feet in order and on the road. Join walkers all over the world and get moving.