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Frequently Asked Questions      
What is race walking? GO! What is the benefits? GO!
What are the rules of race walking? GO!  Quotes to inspire GO!
Who can do race walking? GO!    
How do you race walk? GO!    
Is it a sport? GO!    
South African race walking? GO!    
Learn some lessons from one of South Africa's most experienced walkers. Multiple SA record holder and champion of numerous SA Champs. Lessons gathered from writings and notes made by Jürgen Spencer will be updated every month and shared exclusively on Click on his face or this link to learn More.....
What is race walking?

Race walking, also known as Speed walking, Power walking and ‘The Walk’. Race walking is a sport that can be enjoyed by anyone, of any age. It is easy and fun to pursue. Despite the ridiculous look, race walking enhances the body's own sense of internal rhythm by emphasizing the harmonious motion of the upper and lower parts of the body. In a very short period of time one begins to feel the physical and mental benefits of this rediscovered sport.

Walking. Social Walking, Speed Walking. Power Walking, Race Walking, Road Walking? What are the differences between all of them? There are small differences in technique and speed but they are all forms of walking. Walking is an Olympic event and has been practiced since the 1800’s. What forms of walking are available in South Africa?

Track Walking

Competitors walk on an athletic track or on another flat surface in laps of 400m to 2 1/2 km’s. Walkers can get provincial or national colours in South Africa. Distances raced are 1500m, 3000m, 5 km, 10 km, 20 km, (both men and ladies) and 30 km and 50 km (men only).

Masters Athletics

This is an organisation for athletes (including walkers) over the age of 35 years. Competitors walk on an athletics track in laps of 400m. Walkers can get provincial or national masters colours in South Africa. Distances are 1500m, 3000m, 5 km, 10 km and 20 km.

Road Walking Races.

These are races sanctioned by the various provincial bodies in the country such as CGA, AGN etc. Walkers race on surfaces which are usually tarred or concrete roads but which usually include significant gradients and are not restricted to maximum distance laps. Distances vary from 5 km to 100 miles (160.95 km). There are also races over time periods e.g. 12 , 24 or 48 hours. There are also races over 6 days in Witbank and Randburg. In these time based events the objective is to complete a specified minimum distance and the winner is the competitor completing the greatest distance in the time allowed.

These races fall into 4 categories :

1) Walking only events such as the 702/FNB Walk the Talk
2) Walking races held together with Road Running Races where walkers get a delayed or separate start such as the RAC 10 km or Randburg Harriers 10 km.
3) Normal running races in which walkers take part.
4) Ultra distance running races with a long enough cutoff to allow walkers to finish the distance
5) Relays in which a team of walkers complete the necessary legs

Fun runs/walks

These races are of a short distance, normally about 5 km, and are held as an additional event at road races. The races are organised by the same club that organises the main race. It is seen as a fun event because competitors don’t need license numbers and the walkers are not judged for compliance with the two rules of race walking. Some races give finishers medals, others badges and others just handouts.

Vasbyt/Endurance walks

Teams of 6 walkers do the event. The race are over 2 days over a distance of not less than 70 and not more than 75 km’s – 34 to 40 km on the first day and the rest on the second day. The team members must stay together during the race, never more than about 50m apart. If one member pulls out, the rest of the team members finishing the race still qualifies for their bronze medals and certificates. Teams can do the full Vasbyt (both days) or half a Vasbyt (1 day only). Teams consist of 6 men, 6 women or 3 men and 3 women constituting a mixed team - all participating for overall gold and silver medals in their given categories. Any other combination of walkers will only qualify for bronze medals and certificates. The races are held under the control of the Vasbyt Vereniging van Suid Afrika/Endurance Walking Association of South Africa. Races are held in different provinces followed by a national championship. The routes are over tar, gravel and even sea sand.

Charity/wildlife walks

Walks where there is normally no prize money but everybody gets a medal. The provincial athletics bodies do not sanction the races. The races are normally organised by charity or nature conservation organisations. The entry charges go to a charity or nature conservation purpose. Examples are the Gandhi walk and Walk for wildlife.

Walks with a medal

Events which are organised by private people. Every finisher gets a medal. Some of the entry charges go to charities.

What are the rules of race walking? According to the IAAF

The overall governance of racewalking as an international sport is provided by the IAAF ( International Association of Athletics Federations). In particular, IAAF Rule 230 provides the formal definition of racewalking and the rules covering racewalking events.


1. Race Walking Definition of Race Walking

Race Walking is a progression of steps so taken that the walker makes contact with the ground, so that no visible (to the human eye) loss of contact occurs. The advancing leg shall be straightened (i.e. not bent at the knee) from the moment of first contact with the ground until the vertical upright position.

2. Judging

(a) The appointed judges of Race Walking shall elect a Chief Judge, if one has not been appointed previously. In competitions held under Rule 12.1(a), (b), (c), (d), the Chief Judge has the power to disqualify a competitor, from the circuit to the stadium and inside the stadium when the race finishes in the stadium or in the last 100m when the race takes place solely on the track or on the road course, when his/her mode of progression obviously fails to comply with the paragraph 1 above regardless of his/her having received previous warnings

(b) The Chief Judge shall act as the supervising official for the competition, and only act as a judge in the special situation noted in paragraph (a) above in competitions under IAAF Rule 12.1(a), (b), (c) and (d). In competitions held under IAAF Rule 12.1(a), (b) and (c), a maximum of two Chief Judge's Assistants may be appointed by the Local Organising Committee after consultation with the Chief Judge and the Technical Delegates. The Chief Judge's Assistant(s) are to assist with the notification of disqualifications only and shall not act as Race Walking Judges.

(c) All the Judges shall act in an individual capacity and their judgements shall be based on observations made by the human eye.

(d) In competitions held under IAAF Rule 12.1(a), all Judges shall be International Race Walking Judges. In competitions held under IAAF Rule 12.1 (b) and (c), all Judges shall be either Area or International Race Walking Judges.

(e) For road races, there should normally be a minimum of six to a maximum of nine judges including the Chief Judge.

(f) For track races there should normally be six judges including the Chief Judge.

(g) In competitions held under IAAF Rule 12.1 (a) not more than one judge from any country can officiate. For all competitions held under IAAF Rule 12.1 (a), (b) and (c) an official in charge of the Warning Posting Board and a Chief Judge's Recorder shall be appointed by the Organising Committee after consultation with the Chief Race Walking Judge and the Technical Delegates.

3. Caution

Competitors shall be cautioned when, by their mode of progression, they are in danger of failing to comply with paragraph 1 above. They are not entitled to a second caution from the same Judge for the same offence. Having cautioned a competitor, the Judge shall inform the Chief Judge of his action after the competition.

4. Warning and Disqualification

(a) Each Judge's proposal for disqualification is called a warning. Competitors shall be given warnings when, by their mode of progression, they fail to comply with paragraph 1 above by exhibiting visible loss of contact or a bent knee during any part of the competition.

(b) When a competitor receives a warning from three different Judges, the competitor is disqualified and he shall be notified of this disqualification by the Chief Judge or the Chief Judge’s Assistant.

(c) In all competitions, either directly controlled by the IAAF or taking place under IAAF permit, in no circumstances shall two Judges of the same nationality have the power to disqualify.

(d) If it is impractical to notify a competitor of the disqualification during the race, the disqualification shall be given as soon as practicable after the competitor has finished. The failure to give prompt notification shall not result in the reinstatement of a disqualified competitor.

(e) A yellow sign with the symbol of the offence on each side, shall be shown to the competitor, when a caution is given. A red sign symbolises the disqualification of the competitor. The red sign is used by the Chief Judge to inform competitors of their disqualification. Competitors may also be informed of their disqualification by the Deputy Chief Judge.

(f) In track races, a competitor who is disqualified shall immediately leave the track and, in road races, he shall, immediately after being disqualified, remove the distinguishing numbers which he is wearing and leave the course. Any disqualified competitor who fails to leave the course or track may be liable to further disciplinary action in accordance with IAAF Rule 53.1(viii).

(g) A Warning Posting Board shall be placed on the course and near the finish to keep competitors informed about the number of warnings that have been given to each competitor.

(h) For all IAAF Rule 12.1 (a) competitions, hand held computer devices with transmission capability must be used by the judges in communicating all warnings to the Recorder and the Warning Posting Board (s).

5. The Start

The races shall be started by the firing of a gun. The standard commands for distance events shall be used. In races which include a large number of competitors, a five-minute warning before the start of the race should be given, with additional warnings if required.

6. Safety and Medical

(a) The Organising Committee of Race Walking events shall ensure the safety of competitors and officials. In competitions held under IAAF Rule 12.1(a), (b) and (c), the Organising Committee shall ensure that the roads used for the competition are closed to motorised traffic in all directions.

(b) In competitions held under IAAF Rule 12.1(a), (b) and (c), the events shall be scheduled to start and finish in daylight. (c) A hands-on medical examination during the progress of an event by designated medical personnel clearly identified by the Organising Committee shall not be considered as assistance. (d) A competitor shall retire at once from the race if ordered to do so by a member of the official medical staff appointed by the Organising Committee. Such staff shall be clearly identified by armbands, vests or similar distinctive apparel.

7. Drinking/Sponging and Refreshment Stations

(a) Water and other suitable refreshments shall be available at the start and finish of all races.

(b) For all events up to 10km, drinking/sponging stations shall be provided at suitable intervals, if weather conditions warrant such provision.

(c) For all events of 10km or longer, refreshment stations shall be provided every lap. In addition drinking/sponging stations for water only shall be placed approximately midway between the refreshment stations or more frequently if weather conditions warrant such provision.

(d) Refreshments, which may be provided by either the Organising Committee or the athlete, shall be placed at the stations so that they are easily accessible to, or may be put by authorised persons into the hands of, the competitors.

(e) A competitor who takes refreshment at a place other than the refreshment station renders himself liable to disqualification.

(f) In competitions held under IAAF Rule 12.1 (a), (b) and (c), a maximum of two officials per country may be stationed behind the refreshment table at any one time. Under no circumstances may an official run beside an athlete while he is taking refreshment.

8. Road Courses

(a) For competitions held under IAAF Rule 12.1(a), (b) and (c), the circuit shall be no longer than 2.5km and no shorter than 2km. For events that start and finish in the stadium, the circuit should be located as close as possible to the stadium.

(b) Road courses shall be measured in accordance with IAAF Rule 240.3.

9. Race Conduct

In events of 20km or more, a competitor may leave the road or track with the permission and under the supervision of an Official, provided that by going off course he does not lessen the distance to be covered.

10. Transponder:

See Rule 240.10.


10. The use of transponder timing systems in road races conducted under Rule 12.1 (f), (g) and (h) is permitted provided that:

(a) the system requires no action by the competitor during the competition, at the finish line or during any finish line or results related system or process;

(b) the resolution is 0.1seconds (i.e., it can separate competitors finishing 0.1 seconds apart)

(c) the weight of the transponder and its housing carried on thecompetitors' uniform, race number or shoe is not significant;

(d) none of the equipment used at the start, along the course or at the finish line constitutes a significant obstacle or barrier to the progress of the competitor;

(e) the system, including the implementation of its components and its technical specifications, is approved by the IAAF Technical Committee;

(f) the system is started by the Starter's gun or approved starting apparatus;

(g) the determination of the official winning time is in accordance with Rule 165.

Note : For road races and road walking events, the official time will be the time elapsed between the start gun and the athlete reaching the finish line. However, if an athlete crosses the start line after the start gun, his time elapsed between the start and finish line can be made known to the athlete but will not be considered as official time. The order in which athletes reach the finish line will be considered as the official finish position.

Who can do race walking?

If you can walk you can race walk. you don't have to be or try to be an athlete or fanatic. You need no special instructors, gym, equipment, weights or health clubs - nothing other than a good pair of shoes. It doesn't cost you a fortune, you can do it anywhere. No advanced state of physical fitness is required in order to begin. You can be overweight, old, young, or middle aged.

People who start race walking are the disillusioned runners, expectant mothers, people of advanced age, recuperating heart patients, children, dieters and performers. Potential race walkers include those millions of people who sought the benefits of running and jogging and found it just too tiring and too hazardous, as well as those people who walk daily for exercise and need only to make a few adjustments in their approach and style in order to become expert race walkers.

How do you race walk?

Foot Action - driving foot and front foot acting in a straight line with full extension and flexion of the ankle joints.

Leg Action - smooth, rhythmic strides with continuous contact and a straight supporting leg in the vertical position. A strong rear leg drive.

Hip Action - smooth forward movement with as little vertical and lateral movement as is necessary.

Arm Action - towards the mid-line in front of the trunk, straight back with the elbow high behind the trunk. Arm angled to 90% at elbow.

Trunk Position - upright and relaxed except a slight forward lean as the rear leg drives the body forward.

Shoulder Action - sholders as low as possible and relaxed.

Is it a sport?

Race walking is one of the oldest sports originating from the middle ages in Europe, in particular, England. Footmen had to keep up with their master's carriages but without actually running. Soon a sporting tradition emerged. Betting took place by putting one nobleman's footman against another's. It became one of the most popular sports in England, reaching such heights that spectators stood along the roadway eagerly placing their wagers. The race walker became the earliest "pro." in the sport of "Pedestrianism" as it was called then.

Race walking has been part of the Olympic Games since 1908 and features in World Championships at various levels, European Championships, Pan American Games, Commonwealth Games, All Africa Games and other International, continental and local meetings.

The development of race walking can be seen in the winning times of previous Olympics compared to current times. The 1960 and 1968 Olympic 20km walk was won in 1:34:07 and 1:33:58 respectively by Golubnicy of the USSR. Today most competitive world class walkers go sub 1:20:00, with the world record achieved in 2003 by Ecuador's Jefferson Perez standing at 1:17:21.

What is the benefits?

One needs not to excel in race walking in order to gain its advantages. Each individual should make his or her own decision as to how strenuously to engage in what; in its ultimate form is a sport which requires the maximum in speed, endurance and technique.

Race walking is in fact an easy way to get you in shape and stay that way. For beginners the goal is to allow yourself to feel as good as you potentially can feel. Beyond fitness and fun, the higher levels of race walking offer a vast new field just waiting for its first heroes and heroines to pave the way. There are race walkers in training right now who have gone from being mediocre joggers to gold medal race walking champions in two to three years.

The aerobic benefits from race walking are second to no other exercise. Other than this you will find yourself: sleeping better, enjoying your extra energy flow, digesting your food better, having a trim lean body, having a healthy sex life, all round better health, increased awareness and the tendency to attacks of cheerfulness and downright optimism.

South African race walking?

Race walking in South Africa is a very competitive sport and is featured in national championships at all levels and in local road races. Youth and junior walkers are introduced to the sport through school athletics and then developed through the ranks.

South Africa has been represented all over the world at various events, a highlight being Cecil McMaster at the 1924 Olympics in Paris winning a bronze medal. South Africa has produced world class walkers like Chris Britz - multiple SA record holder, Stanley Valentine, Johan Moerdyk, Susan Vermeulen and lately Nicolene Cronje, first SA woman race walker at the Olympics (Athens 2004). South Africa also won several medals and obtained good placing in African and Commonwealth events through the years.

In the Master age groups we have world champion medal winners at various World Master Championships and numerous world record holders. Some Masters include Barbara Nell, Brenda Nooy, Anna Vilet, Jurgen Spencer and Izak Nel. Our current crop of Senior and Junior walkers are progressively taking steps to make South Africa a competitive force in international race walking circles.

Since 2002 South Africa has been represented at the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, All Africa Games, World and African Junior Championships and the World Race Walking Cup.

Quotes to inspire

“What you have to do is to learn how to do ordinary things in such an extraordinary way that everything takes on a meaning and a glory" Patience Strong.

"Walking is the most efficient exercise for improving overall fitness. It uses more muscles in a continuous uniform action than most other forms of exercise, and it remains accessible to you throughout life - this natural exercise can change random rambling into the best life assurance policy you'll ever have" - Readers Digest.

"The sum of the whole is this: Walk and be happy, walk and be healthy - the best way to lengthen our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose. The wandering man knows of certain ancients, far gone in years, who have staved off infirmities and dissolution by earnest walking - hale fellows, close upon ninety, but brisk as boys." - Charles Dickens.

"Don't lead with your chin, your belly and your bunions" - Prof Arthur Steinhaus.

"Take long steps when you walk, feel the good, rewarding "pull" in the muscles of your legs and buttocks, feel your shoulder go up, your neck straighten to carry your head proudly" - Gayelord Hauser.

" We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle.

" I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor." - Henry David Thoreau.

" Deep within man dwell those slumbering powers; powers that would astonish him, that he never dreamed of possessing; forces that would revolutionize his life if aroused and put into action." - Orison Swett Marden

" I am not discouraged, because very wrong attempt discarded is another step forward." - Thomas Edison.

" The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you're in controlof your life. If you don't, life controls you. - Tony Robbins.

" There is nothing training cannot do. Nothing is above its reach. It can turn bad morals to good; it can destroy bad principles and recreate good ones; it can lift men to angelship." - Mark Twain.

" The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible." - Arthur C. Clarke


A few quotes from American middle distance legend Steve Prefontaine and Bill Bowerman.

“I don't just go out there and run (walk). I like to give people watching something exciting."

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the GIFT."

"The greatest improvement is made by the man who works most intelligently"

"I'm going to work so that it's a pure guts race at the end, and if it is, I am the only one who can win it."

"If you have a body, you are an athlete"

"Some people create with words or music or a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run (walk). I like to make people stop and say, 'I've never seen anyone run (walk) like that before.' It's more than just a race, it's a style. It's doing something better than anyone else. It's being creative."

“You have to wonder at times what you're doing out there. Over the years, I've given myself a thousand reasons to keep running (walking), but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement."

Micheal Johnson

Visualise what it will look like and feel like to win. Get the taste of loss out of your mouth. Replace it with what you want to have happen, what you expect to happen, not what you hope doesn’t happen.

But first you have to work at abandoning the mind games that we all play, the little tricks that we spring on ourselves to try to ward off pressure, a long list of silly superstitions that are no more useful than wearing garlic to scare off vampires.

To often the thing that we are really afraid of is failing to live up to other people’s expectations.

It might be the ability to embrace pressure, to understand it, to draw it in, to make it your own and to use it to your advantage.

Minimising the risks does nothing but minimise you and the things that you can accomplish.

Recognise pressure for what it is: a reflection of your own ambition. You claim the pressure for yourself, internalise and make it yours.

Lance Armstrong

The closer that I got to the day of the race, the quieter I got. I just shut down, planning the race in my mind.

It’s about who can handle the hardships the best and find the strength to keep going.

Things take place there is a confluence of events and circumstances, and we can’t always know their purpose or even if there is one. But we can responsibility for ourselves and be brave.


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