November 3, 2013
As I recently wrote, I completed the 15K race walk. For my first time attempting a 15K and my first time doing a competitive race walk, I feel really good about how I did. My friend and I placed 6th and 7th in our division, which is pretty cool. It certainly has me excited for doing it again. I mean, what better way to get exercise than to take part in races? The training beforehand is good for our health, and the race itself contributes to bettering our health, as well.
I did learn quite a bit about race walking. First of all, in race walking, the feet must maintain contact with the ground, and the leading leg needs to stay straight as it touches the ground. This ensures that no one is jogging or hopping. The race walk may seem like a piece of cake, but I assure you the sport is demanding and intense. I found myself wanting to move into a jog many times in the 15K because a jog would have been easier than the demands of the race walk. But any jogging or skipping or hopping means disqualification in a race walk.
Beyond the strict rules on how to race walk, there are two main ways to walk. I will use the names that my friend and I used during the race. The first is what my friend called the fast step. This is where you take shorter steps as quickly as you can. This gets the heart beating (racing really) and moves you faster. This is the speedy step. When we would take this step along the race, we would do it for as long as we could but would have to break for our bodies’ sakes. It really is a step where your buttocks control the movement. The hips bear the brunt of this motion.
The second way to walk is the long walk. Here, you take deep, long strides. In the long walk, the heart rate slows down, yet you still move pretty quickly. In fact, we found that we did not lose as much time as we thought when we long walked in between the fast steps. The long walk is what allows race walkers to pace themselves and regulate their heart rates so that they can manage their race walking endurance.
Both ways of walking are crucial to a successful race walk. The fast step moves a racer at optimal speed without jogging or running while the long walk continues the pace but gives the heart and lungs a little break.
Another important aspect to race walking is how to swing the arms. It is crucial to keep them pumping straight in front of you, from stomach straight out and back again. Pumping them from stomach up to chest and down again wastes too much energy, but stomach straight out helps propel you forward. Also, you don’t want your elbows to swing wildly from side to side because that wastes energy and slows you down. Who knew?
I do walk for exercise, and I thought I walked at a pretty good pace. I mean, I can walk one mile in 11-12 minutes and can endure that pace easily for 60 minutes. But, I had no idea how fast and intense a race walk is. My friend moves so fast. She could probably do a mile in 9-10 minutes and hold that pace for much longer than 60 minutes. She trains as a race walker, so I definitely held her back. But not for long. I now know how to race walk and how to train for it. Plus, my friend and I have decided that we are going to win this 15K race walk next year, so we are training already. Well, at least that’s our goal.
What’s my takeaway? I am definitely interested in a half marathon, the 13.1, but I think I have ruled out a full marathon. I will continue to participate in 5Ks and 15Ks and look to a half marathon. And I will continue to improve my skills as a race walker. I think the most incredible part of this whole experience is knowing that I can and did successfully complete a 15K. Oh, what a feeling good exercise is!