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An Observation From a Racewalker

Date: 
10/26/2011 - 10:17

By Robert Carver

It is fall again, the weather is cooling off and the race season is picking up steam. People are out in their training mode for the fall and winter races, from the 5K to the marathon. I have been a racewalker and racewalk official for more than 23 years. I have participated in many races as an athlete, volunteer, and race official. Throughout the years, the participation in the races has increased in numbers.

One of the factors for the increase is the runners are using the run/walk method that was introduced many years ago. This method is used by many training groups (including charity groups) and self-taught individuals. My current racewalk pace is 11 minutes per mile. This pace puts me in the back of the pack. This is where I come across many of the runners using the run/walk method. I play tag with these runners. We keep passing each other.

There is walking and there is WALKING. I always said that most people can finish a 5K with a nice powerwalk and finish the race in 45-50 minutes and still not be the last one to finish.

As I play tag on the run, I see that the runner doesn’t use the walk phase more efficiently. Most runners will use the walk like a stroll through the mall. Visualize that you are in a car going 45 mph and you come upon a school zone. What do you do? You slow down quickly and proceed slowly through the zone and then try quickly to get up to speed.

What the runner should do when he/she approaches their walk phase is to us a stronger walk, like a power walk or racewalkesque style of walking. This example is the car approaching a construction zone or curve. You reduce your speed about one-third. This way you can keep the same momentum but use less effort and it is easier to transition between run and walk. Your arms are at 90 degrees at your hips and you are reaching out like you are grabbing a rope. Your stride is slightly extended from your run stride but at a slower pace. To speed up the walk, shorten the stride. Try this on your next training session. Ask questions to your coach. Seek out racewalkers in your area or contact our local running store or race directors in your area.

Remember, don’t jump into this full steam. Work it in moderately until you feel comfortable. We don’t want to see you injured before your big event.

To paraphrase a saying “KISMIF,” Keep it Simple, Make it Fun.

Robert Carver is a longtime Running Journal correspondent who lives in Orlando, FL.

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