Aug 4, 2010 2:36 PM
Hello fellow walkers!
I've been enjoying your posts for some time now and I decided today was the day to jump in on the discussion. I've been walking seriously since I was 11 months old for just over a year now, after 2 decades of trying to be a runner. Words cannot describe the peace I feel now that I have acknowledged to myself and others that no matter how hard I try, running is not for me. The iced knees, the aching hips and the burning lungs -- and that was just after a mile! No, I'm a walker and in making peace with that fact, I decided that I would find new and challenging ways to push myslef within the confines of the walking community so that I could feel really good about my new sport.
Once I settled into my new walking routine and began talking about it, a new snobbery revealed itself in the form of the fellow walker question "what type of walking do you do?" "Err, the regular one foot in front of the other kind." "No, no, no, power walking? fitness walking? race walking?" "Um, race walking I guess"-- I said that because power walking sounded really intense and difficult and fitness walking sounded like the people who walk around carrying weights and race walking just sounded like, well, walking fast -- so I went with that. Then I Googled it. Oh, crap.
Now I had to learn how to race walk. So, I bought a book, I bought a CD, I got up extra early because who would want to look all disjointed and crazy like that while people were watching, right? But guess what? I went from a 14 minute mile to a 12:30 mile in a couple of weeks!! I was increasing my distance too. Race walking takes concentration -- if regular walking is like driving an automatic car, then race walking is like driving a stick, because there is thought required and I found that to be a really wonderful thing. Now mind you, I've had no formal training and I would never "qualify" for a true race walking event because the rules for that are insane. But I'm employing the techniques and I'm improving on my goal which is basically very simple -- just walk as fast as I can, as far as I can, as often as I can. On average, that's anywhere from 70 to 100 miles a month.
Okay, enough background. I want to write about marathon walking and my observations from the 2 most recent (and only) Half Marathons events in which I participated - The Flying Pig Half Marathon in Cincinnati (loved it) and the Rock n Roll Chicago Half Marathon in well, Chicago of course (liked it). The tone and tenor could not be more different for these 2 races. In Cincinnati, the race is truly a civic event with the good folks lining the streets and businesses adopting the pig theme all weekend long. It's hard not to be drawn into the excitement and for a first-timer like myself; it was a nice soft landing into marathon walking. The weather was frightful, but I finished in under 2:50 and was so thrilled, I quickly came home and signed up for the Rock n Roll Chicago.
Chicago was a different beast. Suffice it to say that the citizens of Chicago (of which I am one) are not necessarily enchanted with another marathon rerouting their already snarled traffic. People did cheer, but mostly they tolerated. It was hot, humid and altogether stifling. I beat my Cincinnati time by one minute. It was work, but I still loved it and was anxious to sign on for the next challenge. But, this is where it all gets tricky because I've noticed in both races that there seems to be a universal backlash coming from the runners that we, the walkers, are somehow ruining their marathons.
I don't buy this purist mentality toward the marathon experience. How do I ruin the race for you? If I start in a far back corral (which I should, because you do indeed move faster than I do) and I stay to the right (which I do as often as is possible), what have I done to diminish your race? Interestingly enough, I find myself walking amongst and keeping pace with runners/joggers and I find it frustrating when they just stop running right in front of me -- just switch to walking -- and practically cause a pile up. They do not apologize however, because I am only a walker and shouldn't really be there anyway.
I walk my race with all the drive and determination that you run yours. I walk through the water stations and the Gu stations dodging your debris and oh yes, let's not forget about your loogies -- you don't look before you spit, and that's just really too much. I do this all with the sheepish feeling that I somehow don't belong. The message boards on the marathon website light up after a race with complaints about walkers. One comment noted that doing a marathon used to mean something -- those days were over once they decided to let walkers participate. Last I checked, running, jogging, walking were all individual sports. If I follow the basic rules of etiquette (no walking 3 across and chatting in a marathon -- on this we can all agree), what does it matter if I'm there? You don't even see me because you're home in the shower before I finish.
So, that's what I needed to get off my chest today. Sorry it turned into a rant. Most of you probably haven't stuck around to read all this, but if you did, I would love to hear about your experiences. And yes, I know not every runner feels this way -- you welcoming and encouraging runners do not need to defend yourselves -- I appreciate your support and I feel it on the course. In closing I say to my fellow marathoners of all speeds -- you run your race, and I'll walk mine. Peace.