Sunday, December 14, 2008

In Which I Learn To Walk Fast.

"There are two rules in racewalking," Lenny told me. "First rule: one foot must always be on the ground. Second, when the foot strikes the pavement in front of you, the knee must be loacked."


Yesterday I met with a small group called "the New Mexico Racewalkers" in the parking lot between a library and a senior citizen's center. This location was important, because it is right on one of the main east-west bike/running paths running through Albuquerque.

See, Albuquerque, standing as it does between the mountains and the Rio Grande, has a series of engineered and cemented arroyos that divert water safely through the city toward the river. Along most of these are dedicated black-topped paths that, for the most part, don't interface with traffic. At most they might cross a boulevard from time to time. The result is that you can get pretty much anyway you need to safely throughout the city. You can see part of the trails system here: (WARNING, this is a huge file, use your right mouse button and download it instead of loading it into a browser window)

So Lenny, who is a retired picture-framer, asked me what my background was. Apparently, most of the people who show up get about a mile-into their first "racewalk" session and then have to quit because it wears them out. "What's your experience as a walker?" He asked.

I resisted the urge to say, "well, I've been doing it almost all my life," and instead mumbled, "I, uh, I've done a couple marathons," I told him.

"Really, which ones? Have you done anything this year?"

Deep breath. "In January I did the inaugural Mississippi blues marathon. February, my first 50K in Alabama. March, the Grasslands Trail Marathon in Texas. May, Ogen, Utah. June, I did the marathon at the end of Ironman Couer D'Arlene--" he interrupted me.

The Ironman? The one with the 2 mile swim?

"2.4 miles," I continued: September, I did the New Mexico marathon, and October, I did another 50K in Texas."

There was a long pause, and then Lenny said, "I think you'll be able to keep up with us today."

We only did a few miles, and my heartrate stayed pretty low, but it was interesting getting used to the stride. Mostly, I could see that it involves training some muscles to move in a way, and your leg turner has to be faster than your usual walking pace. My legs got a bit burn-y into the 1st mile, which is a new sensation I've had since I got back into training, but I think that will pass with time. I'm not sure what the cardiovascular benefits are to me, since I could carry on a conversation during most of the walk. Lenny seemed confident, upon hearing that my average marathon pace is about 13 minutes/mile, I could eventually walk that fast.

Now, I don't plan to switch to walking. But I do like to alternate, and this is also good cross-training for me. If I can speed up my walking (currently, my pace is around 15 or 16, depending on my focus) then I could speed up any event in which I alternate walking and running, no?

So, Lenny loaned me a couple of books and I promised to be back next week. I'll come back a couple more weeks, and get some pointers, and then strike out on my own.



  1. oh goody, you can teach me how to race walk ;)

  2. This is cool.

    It will actually improve your marathons, etc, because with the "stiff" leg walking you work your butt, deep abdominal and quad muscles! This counters the effects of the hip flexor and hamstring "workouts" that we get from sitting jobs!

  3. Good luck with it! Interesting what Jumper said. Kinda makes me wonder if I should start the racewalking again.

  4. Wow, now that is interesting. I've been passed by race walkers before, in 100's. Keep posting on this. I would like to know how to walk faster.

  5. I loose my focus alot when walking and just end up doodling along. If I could keep it at 15:00 it would be great!

  6. When I was training with a group who was getting ready for Western States, they incorporated at least one day of just walking into their routine. It works different muscles, but they KNEW they were going to do plenty of it in the long distance events.
    Worked for them! I think it's a good thing to do.


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