I coach racewalkers. Here's the story of how and why.
Racewalking is a bit of a funny sport. It’s got more in common with running than with walking—you can almost think of it as a specific running form, the way swimmers employ different swimming strokes.
The rules are simple: keep one foot on the ground at all times, and keep your front leg straight until it passes underneath you. For track races, a group of judges keeps watch; if you break the rules enough times, you get disqualified. Road relays typically use the honor system, with a way for teams to report the really egregious stuff.
“THESE ARE THE DROIDS YOU'RE LOOKING FOR”
I got into the sport in 2005, when a co-worker at my old job invited me to compete in the epic Portland to Coast walk, a grueling but exhilarating 24-hour relay from downtown Portland to the town of Seaside. I was hooked, and have competed in nearly every Portland to Coast event since then.
Fast-forward a few years: our team felt we’d hit a plateau in our performance. We really wanted to get a leg up (see what I did there?) on our uniformed rivals at a nearby footwear company. So, we hired a coach to show us the proper racewalking technique. We had guest training sessions with Olympic-class athletes.
FROM COMPETITOR TO COACH
After a while, the sport just seemed to... make sense to me. It’s quirky, it’s fantastic for your abs, and you can set the difficulty level to exactly the right point for you. My role on the team gravitated toward setting up our daily training sessions, leading us through warmup exercises, and passing on tips and tricks I'd learned.
I devoured everything I could find on endurance training, nutrition, and competition. I joined USA Track and Field and earned my Level 1 Coaching Certification. And now, I'm coaching athletes of my own, who are headed toward their own competitions.