Okay, I admit, I mocked it. At school it was always the left over event people did because they fancied a stroll and didn’t want to run anywhere and when watching on TV it looks like a lot of people bobbing up and down, shaking their bottoms as they go. As my mother once so eloquently put it ‘It looks like they’ve all been caught short and are making a desperate dash to the bathroom’. However as of 5pm this afternoon I take back all the mocking, glib remarks and comments about it not really being a sport, I hate to say it, but Race Walking is amazing!
After making it a mission to attempt to see all the free Olympics events going on this Games we finally decided not to sit on our bums and watch the TV this afternoon, but to head down to Constitution Hill and witness the women’s 20km Race Walk first hand. Flags at the ready we set off with the half hearted ambition of seeing some of the race (walk), getting a photo or two as proof that we went down and watching it for the sake of it being another free access event in the awesome city. Not many high hopes.
Now I don’t know if anyone else has seen a race walk in person, but these girls could shift. In fact they were walking faster than I can run, or than many people can run. The winner, Russian Elena Lashmanova, set a new world record, managing 20km in 1 hour 25 mins, so about 1 km every 4 mins. When you think that tonight Mo Farah was running about 2 1/2 mins per km in his gold medal winning 5000m it puts into perspective the speed these women were going.
Although race walking isn’t big in the UK (Team GB only had one athlete in the race today who was disqualified after 8km), the turn out from other countries to support the event was huge. We could barely move for Polish, Chinese and, interestingly, Tibetan flags (Bronze medallist Shenjie Qieyang today became the first ever Tibetan China has fielded in the Olympics) and the noise from the spectators was deafening. I also felt bad for the mocking as regardless of what you think of the event, these people train and train hard. All the women competing today were honed and toned athletes finally getting to prove themselves on the big stage, something that definitely isn’t a joke.
Image courtesy of KB (www.fabricofmylife.com) Thanks!!