Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Which races to choose?

Foot races are fun, my favourite distance being half marathons. Lately, however, I've expanded into 10Ks and 5Ks. Many walkers take on longer distances, such as full marathons and ultras, and different routes such as road, trail or track. Even within each distance category, there are several types of organised races for walkers to choose from, depending on your focus. Here are four distinct types of foot race setups for walkers, along with my own personal take on them. Remember to check before you register for a race - there are running races out there that specifically state no walking. Be informed!

1. Running races which allow or welcome walkers:

        PROS: Lots of races in many distances to choose from! Walking form doesn't really matter. You can even throw a bit of running in if you're so inclined.
       CONS: These are understandably focused on runners. Your results will be mixed in with those of runners. Usually there is a pace cutoff.

        Basically, if you can make the pace and are focused on simply competing against yourself, these races are good choices.  How walkers are treated usually depends on how walkers behave (see a previous post on walking etiquette). Race organizers want you there; you are, after all, paying for the privilege.

2. Running races which have separate Competitive Walking divisions:

        PROS: Often (but not always) there are awards within age divisions for the walk category. Usually there are a variety of race distances. Results are posted separately from the runners, so you can see how you are doing compared to other walkers. Any style of WALKING is allowed. Sometimes there is an earlier start for the walking divisions.
       CONS: These are difficult to marshall, and I've heard that cheating happens (as in some folks running a bit when registered in a walk-only division). This can be really frustrating for those of us focussed on walking only (and being honest), and really can give walkers a bad name in the race world. Not as many available as the first type.

        Again, you usually have to maintain a certain pace. These are great for walkers as we are recognized as a separate group, can use any style of walking and often can get awards. I've personally not yet encountered the cheating mentioned above, but am told it happens.....

3. Walking races:

         PROS: Just what it says: walkers only. These are well marshalled. Awards are often given. Usually good choices of distance.
         CONS: Not many of this sort of race out there compared to the previous two.

        If you can find them, these are great. Usually any type of walking is allowed, and some have separate divisions for different types of walking.

4. Judged race walk events:

         PROS: High standards, usually governed by track and field organisations. Excellent for those who wish to compete as an athlete in this specific sport. Often there are separate races for masters (us older folk).
         CONS: These are judged, so you must maintain strict race walk technique. If not, disqualification can result.

         These are a whole different ball game, and are often on a track. These are for serious adherents of RW, but can be very rewarding if you have the technique to carry you through.


As some of you know, I compiled a partial list of races that are walker-friendly or with competitive divisions for 2012 which you can see as a separate page on this blog. I'm working on the 2013 version for half marathons, and will be only including types 1-3 for now. If you have any you'd like to see included, please let me know; pop me an email with details!

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