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Racewalking, or race walking, is a long-distance discipline within the sport of athletics. Although it is a foot race, it is different from running in that one foot must appear to be in contact with the ground at all times. This is assessed by race judges. Typically held on either roads or on running tracks, common distances vary from 3000 metres (1.8 mi) up to 100 kilometres (62.1 mi).

Racewalkers at the U.S. World Cup Trials in 1987
Mixed genderNo
Country or regionWorld

There are two racewalking distances contested at the Summer Olympics: the 20 kilometres race walk (men and women) and 50 kilometres race walk (men only).[1] Both are held as road events. The biennial IAAF World Championships in Athletics also features these three events, in addition to a 50 km walk for women. The IAAF World Race Walking Cup, first held in 1961, is a stand-alone global competition for the discipline and it has 10 kilometres race walks for junior athletes, in addition to the Olympic-standard events. The IAAF World Indoor Championships featured 5000 m and 3000 m race walk variations, but these were discontinued after 1993. Top level athletics championships and games typically feature 20 km racewalking events.

The sport emerged from a British culture of long-distance competitive walking known as pedestrianism, which began to develop the ruleset that is the basis of the modern discipline around the mid-19th century. Since the mid-20th century onwards, Russian and Chinese athletes have been among the most successful on the global stage, with Europe and parts of Latin America producing most of the remaining top level walkers.

Compared to other forms of foot racing, stride length is reduced; to achieve competitive speeds racewalkers must attain cadence rates comparable to those achieved by world-class 800 metres runners.[2]



Men's 20-km walk during the 2005 World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki, Finland. The walker at the right appears to be illegal in that both feet are off the ground, but according to the current rules, an infraction is only committed when the loss of contact is visible to the human eye.[3]

There are only two rules that govern racewalking.[4][5] The first dictates that the athlete's back toe cannot leave the ground until the heel of the front foot has touched. Violation of this rule is known as loss of contact. The second rule requires that the supporting leg must straighten from the point of contact with the ground and remain straightened until the body passes directly over it. These rules are judged by the unaided human eye. Athletes regularly lose contact for a few milliseconds per stride, which can be caught on film, but such a short flight phase is said to be undetectable to the human eye.[citation needed]

Athletes stay low to the ground by keeping their arms pumping low, close to their hips. If one sees a racewalker's shoulders rising, it may be a sign that the athlete is losing contact with the ground. What appears to be an exaggerated swivel to the hip is, in fact, a full rotation of the pelvis. Athletes aim to move the pelvis forward, and to minimize sideways motion in order to achieve maximum forward propulsion. Speed is achieved by stepping quickly with the aim of rapid turnover. This minimizes the risk of the feet leaving the ground. Strides are short and quick, with pushoff coming forward from the ball of the foot, again to minimize the risk of losing contact with the ground. World-class racewalkers (male and female) can average under four and five minutes per kilometre in a 20-km racewalk.[6]


Shaul Ladany (centre), in 1969

Races have been walked at distances as short as 3 kilometres (1.9 mi)—at the 1920 Summer Olympics—and as long as 100 km (62.1 mi). The men's world record for the 50-mile race walk is held by Israeli Shaul Ladany, whose time of 7:23:50 in 1972 beat the world record that had stood since 1935.[7] The modern Olympic events are the 20 km (12.4 mi) race walk (men and women) and 50 km (31 mi) race walk (men only). One example of a longer racewalking competition is the annual Paris-Colmar which is 450 to 500 km.


Liu Hong "flying" (out of contact with the ground) in sight of the judges during Women's 20 kilometres walk at the 2013 World Championships in Athletics where she won bronze

There are judges on the course to monitor form. Three judges submitting "red cards" for violations results in disqualification. There is a scoreboard placed on the course so competitors can see their violation status. If the third violation is received, the chief judge removes the competitor from the course by showing a red paddle. For monitoring reasons, races are held on a looped course or on a track so judges get to see competitors several times during a race. A judge could also "caution" a competitor that he or she is in danger of losing form by showing a paddle that indicates either losing contact or bent knees. No judge may submit more than one card for each walker and the chief judge may not submit any cards; it is his or her job only to disqualify the offending walker. Disqualifications are routine at the elite level, such as the famous case of Jane Saville, disqualified within sight of a gold medal in front of her home crowd in the 2000 Summer Olympics, or Yet Lyu, disqualified 20 meters before the finish line at the 2017 World Championships in Athletics.


The start of the 3500 m walk final, 1908 Olympics

Racewalking developed as one of the original track and field events of the first meeting of the English Amateur Athletics Association in 1880. The first racewalking codes came from an attempt to regulate rules for popular 19th century long distance competitive walking events, called pedestrianism. Pedestrianism had developed, like footraces and horse racing, as a popular working class British and American pastime, and a venue for wagering. Walkers organised the first English amateur walking championship in 1866, which was won by John Chambers, and judged by the "fair heel and toe" rule. This rather vague code was the basis for the rules codified at the first Championships Meeting in 1880 of the Amateur Athletics Association in England, the birth of modern athletics. With football (soccer), cricket, and other sports codified in the 19th century, the transition from professional pedestrianism to amateur racewalking was, while relatively late, part of a process of regularisation occurring in most modern sports at this time.


Racewalking is an Olympic athletics (track and field) event with distances of 20 kilometres for both men and women and 50 kilometres for men only. Racewalking first appeared in the modern Olympics in 1904 as a half-mile walk in the 'all-rounder,' the precursor to the 10-event decathlon. In 1908, stand-alone 1,500m and 3,000m racewalks were added, and—excluding 1924—there has been at least one racewalk (for men) in every Olympics since. The women's racewalk became an Olympic event only in 1992, following years of active lobbying by female internationals. A World Cup in racewalking is held biennially, and racewalk events appear in the IAAF Athletics World Championships, the Commonwealth Games and the Pan American Games, among others.

World Race Walking ChallengeEdit

Since 2003, the IAAF has organised the IAAF Race Walking Challenge, an annual worldwide competition series in which elite athletes accumulate points for the right to compete in the IAAF Race Walking Challenge Final and to share over 200,000 USD of prize money. The series of televised events takes place in several countries each year including Mexico, Spain, Russia and China.[8]

High schoolEdit

Racewalking is sometimes included in high school indoor and outdoor track meets, the rules often more relaxed. The distances walked tend to be relatively short, with the 1500 m being the most commonly held event. Racing also occurs at 3 km, 5 km and 10 km, with records kept and annual rankings published.[9]

Top performersEdit


20 kmEdit

Mark Athlete Nationality Venue Date Ref
1:16:36 Yusuke Suzuki   Japan Nomi, Ishikawa March 15, 2015
1:16:43 # [10] Sergey Morozov   Russia Saransk June 8, 2008
1:17:02 Yohann Diniz   France Arles, France March 8, 2015
1:17:16 Vladimir Kanaykin   Russia Saransk September 28, 2007
1:17:21 Jefferson Pérez   Ecuador Paris August 23, 2003
1:17:22 Paquillo Fernández   Spain Turku April 28, 2002
1:17:23 Vladimir Stankin   Russia Adler February 8, 2004
1:17:25 Bernardo Segura   Mexico Bergen May 7, 1994
1:17:30 Alex Schwazer   Italy Lugano March 18, 2012
1:17:33 Nathan Deakes   Australia Cixi City April 23, 2005
1:17:36 Zhen Wang   China Taicang March 30, 2012
1:17:38 Valeriy Borchin   Russia Adler February 28, 2009

50 kmEdit

Mark Athlete Nationality Venue Date Ref
3:32:33 Yohann Diniz   France Zurich 15 August 2014 [11]
3:34:14 Denis Nizhegorodov   Russia Cheboksary 11 May 2008 [12]
3:34:38 Matej Tóth   Slovakia Dudince 21 March 2015 [13]
3:35:47 Nathan Deakes   Australia Geelong 2 December 2006
3:35:59 Sergey Kirdyapkin   Russia London 11 August 2012
3:36:03 Robert Korzeniowski   Poland Paris 27 August 2003
3:36:04 Alex Schwazer   Italy Rosignano Solvay 11 February 2007
3:36:06 Yu Chaohong   China Nanjing 22 October 2005
3:36:13 Zhao Chengliang   China Nanjing 22 October 2005
3:36:20 Han Yucheng   China Nanjing 27 February 2005


20 kmEdit

As of August 2016

Rank Time Athlete Nationality Date Place Ref
1 1:24:38 Liu Hong   China 6 June 2015 A Coruña [14]
2 1:24:47 Elmira Alembekova   Russia 27 February 2015 Sochi
3 1:24:501 Olimpiada Ivanova   Russia 4 March 2001 Adler
4 1:24:56 Olga Kaniskina   Russia 28 February 2009 Adler
5 1:25:02 Elena Lashmanova   Russia 11 August 2012 London
6 1:25:08 Vera Sokolova   Russia 26 February 2011 Sochi
7 1:25:09 Anisya Kirdyapkina   Russia 26 February 2011 Sochi
8 1:25:12 Lü Xiuzhi   China 20 March 2015 Beijing
9 1:25:16 Shenjie Qieyang   China 11 August 2012 London
10 1:25:181 Tatyana Gudkova   Russia 19 May 2000 Moscow
  • 1 : These times were achieved without the presence of international judges to officiate the competition or post-race doping tests, thus making them invalid for world record status. However, they are accepted as personal best marks for those athletes.

50 kmEdit

The women's 50 km walk is a new event, having been controversially added to the IAAF World Championships for the first time in 2017.[15]

As of August 2017:

Rank Time Athlete Nationality Date Place Ref
1 4:05:56 Inês Henriques   Portugal 13 August 2017 London [16]
2 4:08:58 Yin Hang   China 13 August 2017 London [16]
3 4:10:59 Monica Svensson   Sweden 21 October 2007 Scanzorosciate
4 4:12:16 Yelena Ginko   Belarus 17 October 2004 Scanzorosciate
5 4:16:27 Jolanta Dukure   Latvia 9 September 2006 Paralepa
6 4:20:49 Yang Shuqing   China 13 August 2017 London [16]
7 4:21:51 Katie Burnett   United States 13 August 2017 London [16]
8 4:25:22 Brigita Virbalytė-Dimšienė   Lithuania 17 October 2010 Villa di Serio
9 4:28:13 Evaggelía Xinoú   Greece 17 October 2004 Scanzorosciate
10 4:28:53 Neringa Aidietytė   Lithuania 1 October 2006 Ivano-Frankivsk
  • 1 : These times were achieved without the presence of international judges to officiate the competition and/or post-race doping tests, thus making them invalid for world record status. However, they are accepted as personal best marks for those athletes.

In popular cultureEdit

Racewalking is sometimes derided as a contrived or "artificial" sport.[2]

In the 1966 film “Walk, Don’t Run,” Jim Hutton plays a racewalker competing in the Tokyo Olympics. Cary Grant and Samantha Eggar co-star.

In 1992 long-time Olympic commentator Bob Costas compared it to "a contest to see who can whisper the loudest."[17]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Mulkeen, Jon. "PREVIEW: WOMEN'S 50KM RACE WALK – IAAF WORLD RACE WALKING TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS TAICANG 2018". IAAF Official Website. IAAF. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  2. ^ a b Eulich, Whitney (3 August 2012). "Wait... That's an Olympic Event?". Christian Science Monitor. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  3. ^ Belson, Ken (August 10, 2012). "One Step at a Time? It's More Complicated Than That". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-08-28.
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 22, 2010. Retrieved 2008-08-21.
  6. ^ "100 Metres - men - senior - outdoor - 2016". Retrieved 2016-08-28.
  7. ^ "Shaul Ladany". Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 14, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
  9. ^ "Home - The Home of High School Race Walking". January 2, 2009. Archived from the original on February 4, 2010. Retrieved 2016-08-28.
  10. ^ not ratified by IAAF because it didn’t fulfil the criteria of having the required three international judges present
  11. ^ Zaccardi, Nick (15 August 2014). "Yohann Diniz stops to celebrate before breaking 50km race walk world record". NBC Sports. Archived from the original on August 14, 2016. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  12. ^ "Official IAAF Race Results Cheboksary 2008". Archived from the original on June 10, 2010. Retrieved August 11, 2012.
  13. ^ Zuzana Trojakova (21 March 2015). "Toth records third-fastest 50km race walk in history in Dudince". IAAF. Retrieved 22 March 2015.
  14. ^ "Liu breaks 20km race walk world record in La Coruna". IAAF. 6 June 2015. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  15. ^ "The IAAF Achieves Gender Parity At Worlds, But Only For Five Women".
  16. ^ a b c d "50km Race Walk Results" (PDF). IAAF. 13 August 2017. Retrieved 13 August 2017.
  17. ^ Guinto, Joseph. "Golden Boy: Costas Now". American Way. Archived from the original on August 13, 2012. Retrieved August 8, 2012.

External linksEdit