Freimark: Race walking deserves more respect than it has gotten


Late Friday night I was sitting in the media tent at Hayward Field when I heard a confusing question, “Who is ready for the race walk at 7:30 a.m.?” Like everyone around me, I laughed — but then I ended up with the assignment.

The 20,000 meter race walk had a lot of things going against it: First was its time slot 7:30 a.m., which means it started nearly eight hours before the next event of the day. The next problem it faced was the simple fact that it was 20,000 meters — 50 laps around the track — which takes about an hour and a half.

I was making jokes all the way up until I finally saw my first race walk.

The sport is hard to really encapsulate without seeing it. The word “walk” does not serve it well at all. The pace is closer to that of a run. The men and women who do this sport finish their races at a pace that would be considered good for a half marathon. If Trevor Barron had done his race-walk pace during the Boston half marathon, he would have come in 62nd place. Walking. @@http://coolrunning.com/results/11/ma/[email protected]@

The sport is one of  the most technical events at the Olympic Trials. There is a specific form that must be maintained through out the entire race. Small slips are allowed, as judges can give many yellow warnings with no penalties. It is when form is egregiously broken that a walker gets a red card. If that is confirmed by three judges then the walker is disqualified. This becomes a problem late in the race as walkers are pushing for position and push the form as fast as it can go. Imagine working yourself to the limit for over an hour only to have it be for nothing because you pushed too hard.@@http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdCUpiI1MSA@@ There were three disqualifications this weekend. Each of them was someone’s dream flying away.@@lol @@

The sport is in no way easy. The athletes go through hell training like any long distance track athlete does.

It paid off for many of them on that Saturday morning: Eleven race walk records were broken in one day. The 3-, 10-, 15- and 20k records all count within one race, so one athlete can have four records in one event. An amazing morning in the history of American race walking — but nothing more than a few stories were published. Which is a shame.

This lack of recognition does not go unnoticed by the athletes. Trevor Barron, who won the men’s race and set the American record, quit the sport for a period do to the lack of respect that race walking receives in the United [email protected]@http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdCUpiI1MSA@@

While the 20- and 50k race walks may be joked about by people within the track and field world, it’s a lot more than a joke. It’s a grueling sport — a sport demanding the utmost endurance, dedication and concentration — that shouldn’t be brushed aside as a nice, morning stroll.@@http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdCUpiI1MSA@@

I know what I will be watching Aug. 4th because really, it’s got more akin to a mental war than a walk in the park.


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