What is Race Walking?

Race walking is not “fast walking,” “power walking,” or “speed walking.” Rather, it is an Olympic sport with strict rules. Two rules govern race walking and are enforced by trained judges at official races:

  1. One foot must always touch the ground
  2. When your heel touches the ground, that leg must be straight and remain straight until it passes under your hips.

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics show race walking competitions in 2500 B.C. In the 18th century, English noblemen placed bets to see which “race walking” footmen would be first to arrive in the next village to announce their arrival. By 1900, rules were established, and in 1908, race walking became an Olympic sport. Women’s events were added in 1992.

Top race walking men are able to finish 50 km events in just over four hours. Champions in shorter distance events can race walk a mile in less than six minutes!

This excellent video produced by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAFF) shows race walking footage and explains the technique.