Watch: The Very-Real Olympic Sport Of Speed Walking Explained

We're so pleased that the mysterious sport of racewalking has entered back into our lives yet again. Every four years, the world's most calm and quick-footed athletes compete at the Olympics in this, well, odd-looking challenge, and it's a constant point of joke-making and confusion. But, after watching a 15-minute tutorial and doing some very awkward movements (thankfully) out of public view, allow this newly crowned expert tell you: This sport ain't easy. Here's how it's done:
Essentially, racewalking is the process of walking as quickly as possible while using your entire body and following two important yet crazy-difficult rules. The first — keeping one foot completely on the ground at all times — seems easy enough, but add it to the second — landing on your heel with a completely straight leg — and that's where the small steps and hip-wigglin' come in. No lifting your feet like a runner. No bending your knee when you land like a runner. Basically nothing jogging laps around a junior high gym ever taught you to do.
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At the Olympic level, the sport of racewalking is broken up into two lengthy distance events: the men's and women's 20K, and the men's 50K, which is a whopping 30 miles. If you think these long walks are leisurely, think again — the top male and female 20K finishers at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games stomped it out in 79 and 86 minutes, respectively, which equals out to under seven minutes per mile. We could barely get to the door and back without goofing up, and some competitors are enduring up to 30 miles of this stuff. Speed demons!
Alright, so you may not be strutting your stuff around London's Olympic Stadium any time soon, but these techniques have got to at least provide some formal training for getting through a subway station as quickly as possible. Miss J may know how to stomp it out on a catwalk, but having the right skills to turn your walk to the dentist or trip to the grocery store into a low-impact exercise sounds way more beneficial, not to mention fun.
Photo: Via The Olympics
Can't get enough (yeah, us neither). Watch official walking events from the Olympics here!
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