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Sauntering along at the typical rate of 3 mph for an average-weight human won't quite cut it for speed walking. The top race walkers in the U.S. manage around triple that speed, managing a 5K race walk -- 3.1 miles -- in 19 minutes for top male walker Timothy Seaman and 22 minutes for top female Debbi Lawrence. While speed walking may look like comical butt-wiggling and hip-churning to you, the speeds and distances these athletes achieve can be seriously impressive.
Practiced everywhere from malls and boardwalks to the Olympics, this sport requires you to keep foot contact with the ground or track at all times, with your leading leg straight as it touches the ground and then passes under your body. More typically called race walking, judges at competitive events observe the walkers and report fouls for bad technique. If you simply want to become fitter with speed walking, walk as quickly as you can for a set time, вЂњstriding as if you are late for an important appointment,вЂќ advises Michele Stanten in вЂњWalk Off Weight.вЂќ As a fitness tool, speed walking attacks belly fat more effectively than longer, low-intensity exercise, she notes.
Olympic and World-Record Times
At the Olympic level, men race walk distances of 20K and 50K, and women race walk just a 20K event. At the London 2012 Games, Elena Lashmanova won gold with a time of 1:25:02 in the women's 20K walk. Ding Chen of China won the men's 20K with 1:18:46, and Sergey Kirdyapkin won the men's 50K in 3:35:59. Vladimir Kanaykin of Russia holds the world record in the 20K race walk, at 1:17:16, and his countryman Denis Nizhegorodov holds the 50K record, at 3:35:59. The 20K world record for men equates to around 9.6 mph, and the 50K to around 8.8 mph; the 20K Olympic record for women equates to around 8.6 mph.
Curt Clausen holds the top U.S. men's speed walking time for the 50K, at 3:48:04, while Tim Lewis rules the 20K with 1:21:48. Michelle Rohl holds the women's title for the 20K with 1:31:51. While slightly off the world-record pace, Clausen, Lewis and Rohl still smoke the typical healthy-weight walker's pace of 3 mph, at 9.1, 8.1 and 8.2 mph respectively.
If you want to gauge your speed walking time, you can walk on a marked track and perform a bit of algebra to figure out your speed. A typical school track of 400 meters takes about four laps to yield the 1,609 meters in a mile. If it takes you a half hour to walk the mile, you're down at 2 mph -- a bit on the slow side. Twenty minutes puts you at the average 3 mph. If you can manage the mile in 15 minutes, you're at 4 mph, and 12 minutes is a relatively smoking 5 mph.