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Racewalking My First Half Marathon

“You’re walking faster than I’m running!” That’s what I heard over and over as I progressed through my first half marathon last weekend in Bend, Ore. I’ve done Portland to Coast which is part of the “Mother Of All Relays” Hood to Coast seven times, and when my most recent set of 3 legs added up to 19 miles in less than 24 hours, I figured it was time to try a 1/2 marathon. Perhaps I should have chosen an easier first-timer option than SuperFit Productions‘ Down & Dirty Half.

Race-walking my first half marathon
The “Down & Dirty Half” started and ended at 7th Mountain Resort in Bend, Ore. Here I am being dweebish about 5 minutes before the race started, sticking to my spot by the start-flag like a good little newbie “noob”

While I didn’t see any other race-walkers in half-marathon, a lot of runners ended up walking, and one of them commented that she should learn some racewalking form to help her overall time be faster. I agreed with her. When runners stop to walk as a means of resting, but they’re just strolling, they really slow down. If they were able to race-walk during those active rests, they wouldn’t really slow down much. My overall time for 13.1 miles was 2 hours, 34 minutes, 31 seconds (according to my phone app, but I think it was a bit off) which means my average pace was 11:49 per mile.

What I look like when I'm filming a video blog "vlog" for facebook or instagram. Yes, people did stare at me. The one I filmed afterward was NOT as pretty and I looked much more tired... ha!
What I look like when I’m filming a video blog “vlog” for facebook or instagram. Yes, people did stare at me. The one I filmed afterward was NOT as pretty and I looked much more tired… ha!

Right before the race, I had worked up to 12 miles on gently rolling hills at an average pace of 11:06-11:15 minutes per mile. But I live at 500 feet elevation above sea level, and this gnarly race started at 4,000′ elevation and went WAY up from there and then came ALL the way back down over a rough, uneven trail which was often full of boulders and a few stray branches. I confess that I did do about 2 1/2-3 miles of jogging as I hit those downhill sections. There was just no way to maintain a smooth walking stride in those areas, and running felt good at that point. Running is NOT allowed during Portland to Coast, but running events allow walking as long as you finish under the stated time which was 4 hours for this race, and I did less than that quite nicely.

Apparently I shrug my shoulders and tuck my chin to my shoulder when I'm excited and waving like a little kid at her first performance. But look at that fabulous heel-strike and toe push-off! This is what we want to see in race-walking: a straight front leg at the moment the heel strikes, and that back foot keeping its toes on the ground as long as possible to lengthen the stride. "Show people the bottom of your front foot" is a cue my coach gave me, and you can see the underside of my shoe in this pic.
Apparently I shrug my shoulders and tuck my chin to my shoulder when I’m excited and waving like a little kid at her first performance. But look at that fabulous heel-strike and toe push-off! This is what we want to see in race-walking: a straight front leg at the moment the heel strikes, and that back foot keeping its toes on the ground as long as possible to lengthen the stride. “Show people the bottom of your front foot” is a cue my coach gave me, and you can see the underside of my shoe in this pic.

My body really enjoys race walking, but I don’t do full form. I find that the classic “hip drop” and “hip twist” both happen on their own if I focus on everything else: Solid heel strike, driving elbows backward, eyes on the horizon, ribs over hips, walking a thin line, pushing off with the toes. Watch my hips and hands through these next pictures, and you’ll see it.

Relaxing into my stride at the start of the race. This is the center of the step: My weight is fully over one straight leg and I'm starting to lean forward as the other leg begins to extend forward. Notice my thumb on top of my fist. Hips are shifted to my left and my right shoulder is slightly higher... this is something I need to work on since the shoulders shouldn't go up and down, but I'm blaming my lack of focus on the camera ;)
Relaxing into my stride at the start of the race. This is the center of the step: My weight is fully over one straight leg and I’m starting to lean forward as the other leg begins to extend forward. Notice my thumb on top of my fist. Hips are shifted to my left and my right shoulder is slightly higher… this is something I need to work on since the shoulders shouldn’t go up and down, but I’m blaming my lack of focus on the camera 😉

Keep watching how far back my elbows go, how much my hips shift and {hopefully} how level my upper body stays. This is where the core comes in. To get a long stride, the hips should rotate slightly, but I’m a stickler for alignment so I don’t want them to rotate too much or my glutes are passing too much work to my center. My center should be the stability point between my lower and upper body. Yet power is transmitted up and down through it. The backward drive of my elbows sends the opposite hip forward more. And with every exhale, I’m gently engaging.

DirtyTwist
You can see the “twist line” in the belly of my shirt. I’m not trying to twist my hips, though. I’m trying to drive my elbow back and plant my forward heel just before I press firmly off my back toes while keeping my hips from dumping forward or tucking under. Long, lean and lifted. Tall and strong. This is what I say to myself.

Chris was taking these super fast sports photos as I passed him and my husband, and they’re cool to scroll through all together, because I can see my body frame by frame and analyze my strengths and weaknesses. The next few pics are rear view, and you can really tell what my hips are doing based on my water belt line.

DirtyHeelToe
In race walking, one foot must ALWAYS be on the ground. In this image I’m just past the center of the stride, my back foot is just leaving the ground, and my back knee is starting to bend as I transfer my weight fully to my front foot. My hips are level but about to rock to the left which you will see in the next image.
DirtyLevel
I see so many things in this image that reveal stuff I need to work on: forward head, load-bearing foot is pronated and turned out a bit, shoulders too rounded. Perhaps this is why I love this sport, though: it’s not “just walking.” It really challenges me!
DirtyLeftHipUp
Serious hip drop on my right side. They’re about to divert us in the woods where we will spend the next 12.75 miles of the race.
DirtyRightHipUp
… and over to the left againwjmk3!@{*”(((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((“””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””” sorry, the cat laid on my keyboard… LOL you can watch the video here where I posted it on facebook.


I have never been so happy to see a finish line in my entire life. Yes, I ran. I was so done and so thrilled to see my family and Chris and his family waiting for me and cheering me on. What an experience!
I have never been so happy to see a finish line in my entire life. Yes, I ran. I was so done and so thrilled to see my family and Chris and his family waiting for me and cheering me on. What an experience!

I would like to do 2-3 more half-marathons this year between now and Portland to Coast. I’m feeling lean, balanced, in tune with myself, and after that race all over the backwoods of central Oregon, I’m pretty sure I can handle more local, paved races.

Stay tuned for a blog with a video of me walking, in which I will try to offer more pointers for those of you who are interested in this sport. Meanwhile, you can read about

3 thoughts on “Racewalking My First Half Marathon

  1. Pingback: 5 Fitness Sports You Can Keep Enjoying With Diastasis Recti | Fit2B Studio

  2. Pingback: All the Best Walking Resources | Fit2B Studio

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