While doing my strength worth this morning in our home fitness room, I turned on the television to watch the morning session of Day 10 in the World Track and Field Championships. And there was a sport that I’d forgotten about. Racewalking.
The rules are strange. Athletes move across the ground as fast as they can, but one foot must be in contact with the road surface at all times. There are judges who specialize in watching the athletes to make sure they’re not technically “running,” which would mean they are moving with both feet off the ground at the same time.
As a result, racewalkers move with exaggerated arm movements. They are the exact opposite of the Ninja runner that we witnessed in the women’s marathon. She ran with both arms straight down at her sides and very little hip movement at all.
Racewalkers “roll” through every stride. Their hips swivel up and down in exaggerated fashion. They might almost qualify for the Ministry of Silly Walks if the sport was not so damned hard to do. The four-hour competition was won by a Frenchman on the men’s side and a Portuguese woman that has devoted, the announcers were clear to say, more than 20 years of her life to the sport.
And women around the world should perhaps pay more attention to this event. From the looks of the competitors, racewalking is a great way to shed some pounds and get that butt in fine shape. Running is a risk for many women and men with all that pounding. Granted, for the men, that swivel walk may get you some strange looks in some states, but racewalking is far less pounding than running. You just have to work on your strength and flexibility. Racewalkers can get injured too. It’s always about overuse versus weak connective tissues.
It was interesting to watch the introductions of the competitors. All were rather humble in their demeanor. No mugging like the sprinters in track or rehearsed moves like Usain Bolt or Mo Farah. They even introduced the men’s and women’s competitors at the same time. That’s because they competed in the same race on the same course.
There is no danger of running into one another during the event, because they’re not running. They’re walking fast. There is plenty of time to merge after water stops, and competitors still traveled in race packs that broke up like meteors re-entering the atmosphere after an hour or two.
Every racewalking event is a study in perseverance. One male Norwegian competitor got pulled aside and given a red card penalty for lifting his feet off the ground. But that seemed like the least of his problems, for his shirt was stained red from his bleeding nipples. It was hot outside, and four hours in the sun and sweat and abrasion gave him a bad case of bloody nips. Which was fitting because the competition was held in London, where everything was bloody beautify during the World Championships except this guy’s poor nipples and Usain Bolt’s supposedly cramping hamstring.
I don’t exactly buy all that. When Bolt got the baton, he was already far behind. He’d gotten beat in the 100 meters earlier in the meet, and knew he had no chance of running down the athletes ahead of him. I think he “cramped” in order to avoid another disgrace. That may seem cruel and cynical, but I don’t blame the man. He likely regretted coming to the meet at all. He accomplished so much in so many amazing ways the last meet of his career was bound to be a letdown.
So I don’t blame him. But luck runs out even for the most talented athlete in the world. But if his hamstring truly was cramping, he should have just finished the last forty meters racewalking. Everyone would have thought he was gaming the world like he’s always done. And more power to you Usain. More power to you.