July 28, 2012

"For those who insist they've located the least essential, or least sport-y Olympic discipline..."

"... may I present — via Kon Ichikawa's essential 1965 documentary Tokyo Olympiad — 50 kilometer Olympic race-walking?"

Wait! That was grueling. And in the rain? And wearing a straw fedora?

ADDED: Here's the Ichikawa movie. And here's a straw fedora.


Saint Croix said...

LOL. I haven't seen that movie.

Stephen King once wrote a horror story about a walk marathon.

edutcher said...

Wasn't that a clip from "Northwest Passage"?

Michael said...

Do not buy that hipster fedora unless you want to mark yourself as hopelessly behind the hip curve. These hats are on racks in towns like Macon, Ga.

On the other hand, try walking a mile in the race walker style. Awful.

leslyn said...

Racewalking is grueling. I love that sport. Very difficult.

Amexpat said...

Silly walking in a silly event.

Robert Cook said...

Racewalking has been an Olympic sport since 1904, and walking races were all the rage in England in the 19th Century. I did "speedwalking" for about 12 years from the early 90s to the early 2000s. (I didn't participate in races and thus don't use that term.) I learned the technique in a class offered by the NY Roadrunners Club.

It looks silly if one doesn't know the biomechanics of the proper form and if one isn't used to seeing it, but it is, indeed, very very challenging, if done correctly and if one is pushing oneself for distance and speed.

It also offers health benefits at least the equal of jogging, and may have saved my life: I ended up in the hospital 14 years ago, diagnosed with leukemia and a blood hemoglobin of 3, (basically, almost NO red blood cells circulating). The doctors weren't sure I'd live through the night. Later, after successful treatment, my hematologist speculated that I was so fit from my speedwalking that my body had been able to make efficient use of even the spare amount of hemoglobin left in my body such that I lived long enough for the infusion of platelets that night to keep me going, (followed, of course, by many more transfusions)...so haters can bite it.

I gradually tailed off and stopped speedwalking entirely primarily because of longer hours at work. I was getting home too late to change and go out for a five mile walk in the park. I miss it and keep thinking I'll resume it eventually.

bhollis said...

Funny Bryan Cranston bit on Malcolm in the Middle on race walking:


Robert Cook said...

The Cary Grant movie WALK, DON'T RUN is set in Japan during the 1967 Olympics and features Jim Hutton as a competitive racewalker.

Amexpat said...

@Robert Cook

I don't doubt that speedwalking is very challenging and provides a good workout. What seems silly to me is the artificial constraint of not allowing your feet to leave the ground.

We were born to run, not walk fast.

William said...

It requires not just fitness and physical endurance. It requires mental toughness to train and practice an activity that causes cute girls to giggle when you pass by......For sheer silliness and lack of athleticism nothing can compare to curling.

Robert Cook said...

"What seems silly to me is the artificial constraint of not allowing your feet to leave the ground."

That, of course, is the whole point. It's not running, but fast walking! If both feet leave the ground at once it's running...which, actually, is easier.

Sporting events have constraints built into them specfically in order to challenge the participants. I mean, isn't it silly to require soccer players never to use their hands in moving the ball, or for basketball players to be prohibited from "traveling?"

"It requires mental toughness to train and practice an activity that causes cute girls to giggle when you pass by."

Granting your meaning to be humorous, I found that, of those doing speedwalking for its health benefits rather than for competitive purposes, women distinctly outnumbered men. So...maybe it's the place to be and the activity to pursue in order to meet women!

rcocean said...

Wasn't that a clip from "Northwest Passage"?

Ha. Just needs Indians and a few canoes.

Joe said...

I race walked in high school. Got both a school record and lettered, though the guy that took my place clobbered my records by a huge margin.

It requires discipline and is hard, though not as hard as the 400 meter. I found it more difficult than the half mile or mile, both of which I ran.

Unfortunately, about half the people competing in it are cheating, including Olympic athletes due largely because it is very hard to judge whether the walk is correct. The technique of the fastest racers is right on the edge and, frankly, often crosses over it. This proved to be one of the most frustrating aspects of the sport.

That said, there are plenty of less sport-y Olympic events.

(BTW, Walk, Don't Run is one of my favorite Cary Grant movies.)

DADvocate said...

When I was in college at the GREAT University of Tennessee, we had racewalder Dan O'Connor, who qualified for the 1980 Olympics that the U.S. boycotted and later competed in the Los Angeles Olympics with a 6th place finish in the 20k. Seeing him "walking" down Kingston Pike was a common sight for several years. You could spot him from a long distance because of the odd gait race walkers use.

"Track and Field magazine ranked him nationally for 20 consecutive years, dubbing him Mr. Longevity. Today he remains the only track and field athlete in any event to have achieved this milestone."

DADvocate said...

We were born to run, not walk fast.

So says Springsteen.

Saint Croix said...

Baby we were born to walk faaaaaaasssssst.

That's Springsteen in the age of Obama.

Baby we were born to crawwwwwwlllll.

That's Springsteen if Obama gets a 2nd term.

poppa india said...

West Pointer Ron Zinn finished 6th for the US in the 20 km walk at the '64 Tokyo Olympics. He was KIA in Viet-Nam in July of '65.

dbp said...

I am a runner but have a lot of respect for race walkers.

The top race walkers cover 31 miles at a faster pace than most marathon runners make (you would be around 500th of 20k in the Boston Marathon--which is the most elite large race in the world).

The whole time, they could be DQ for making one bad step. A true mental and physical challange.

Steven said...

I don't doubt that speedwalking is very challenging and provides a good workout. What seems silly to me is the artificial constraint of not allowing your feet to leave the ground.

A specified rule of any kind isn't itself inherently ridiculous; sports are full of them. No, what makes race-walking ridiculous as a competitive event is that said constraint doesn't objectively exist. If you've ever watched the current Olympians in slow motion, it's easy to see they all have both feet off the ground every single stride. Instead, the standard is "visible" lifting.

Which is to say, a judge can DQ you at any time, just because. You actually are lifting both feet from the ground, so it's not like you can produce evidence to show the judge was mistaken; you can't reconstruct which photons hit his eye when.

And no, this isn't an ordinary foible of having human judges. Over in, say, baseball, the strike zone has an objective definition in the rules. Sure, umpires get it wrong all the time — but the standard exists, and their performance can be compared to the standard (and in the minor leagues, it is, all the time).

ed said...

1. Gaaaayyyy.

2. Hey I wear a hat like that!

I got it with a bowl of soup!