The End of Race Walking?

A photo of Ken Matthews – just for the sake of it

The following information about the proposed Marathon Race Walk Mixed Relay has been ‘leaked’ by a concerned insider. I’ve received a copy and Tim Erickson has featured the news in the VRWAC Newsletter.

At this moment I’m not able to respond at length to this bizarre proposal, which strikes me as composed by someone deeply hostile to race-walking. They hope that in particular the admission that ‘due to the fast pace, proper and consistent judging could be challenging’ will encourage ridicule across athletics, never mind in the wider sporting community. See below – Tim Erickson is more sanguine than me. I fear this is a profound setback in the struggle to defend race-walking as an integral and significant element in the make-up of international athletics. But then I can be a miserable old bugger!

  1. Marathon Race Walk Mixed Relay

Further to the approval and announcement of the new Marathon Race Walk Mixed Relay, a specific Working Group in representation of athletes, coaches, judges and Member Federations was appointed to discuss the detailed format of the new event and the qualification pathway of the 25 teams to Paris 2024. Council was presented with the recommendations which were approved as follows.

2.1 Qualification Pathway to Paris 2024

  • The Marathon Race Walk Mixed Relay will replace the 35km at the 2024 World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships in Antalya (TUR).
  • The Top 22 finishing teams in Antalya will qualify automatically for Paris.
  • Up to 5 of these 22 teams can be from a second team of the same country (NOC).
  • 3 additional teams (which cannot be from a country already qualified from Antalya 2024) will qualify through the Marathon Race Walk Mixed Relay top performance lists in the qualification period (31/12/2022 – 30/06/2024).
  • To be considered for qualification purposes, these Marathon Race Walk Mixed Relay events must comply with the following:
    • Be held on a World Athletics Certified Course.
    • Minimum three International or Area Race Walking Judges must officiate at the competition.
    • Minimum two international teams, representing at least two countries, must compete in the race.
    • Each athlete must walk a minimum of 20km between their two legs. For information, in Paris, the 4 legs (M+W+M+W) will be: 11.45km, 10km, 10km, 10.745km.
    • Be conducted at a competition which is published on the World Athletics Global Calendar.

Member Federations and / or other governing bodies interested in staging a Marathon Race Walk Mixed Relay as a qualification opportunity for Paris 2024 are invited to contact our Competitions Department ( for more details.

2.2 Judging

This is a new event which is based on team participation only. It is also an event over 10km legs which, due to the fast pace, could make proper and consistent judging challenging. The priority is to allow every team to finish while ensuring that no team gets an advantage by walking irregularly and therefore time penalties will replace disqualifications in case of additional red cards for the team. [My emphasis]

The judging for this event, which will also be implemented in Antalya 2024 and in Paris 2024, will be according to the following principles:

  • Judging will be on a Team / NOC basis rather than on the individual athlete.
  • No athlete/team can be disqualified based on poor race-walking technique and therefore red cards will not lead to DQ but, rather, to additional time penalties as follows: [My emphasis]
    • 3 red cards for the Team = 3 min penalty
    • 4th red card for the team = 4 min cumulative penalty (1 additional minute)
    • 5th red card for the team = 5 min cumulative penalty (1 additional minute)
    • Etc.

To note that, in Paris, there will be a cut off time of 3h20m and teams who have not completed the marathon distance will be classified at the position at which they cross the finish line after the cut-off time.

World Athletics reserves the right to review all aspects of this event including judging, after Antalya 2024.

Tim Erickson comments:

And just who is this handpicked “Working Group of athletes, coaches, judges and Member Federations”. No prizes for guessing that it will have been handpicked from those who supported the proposal. It’s a case of choosing the people who will do what you want and ignoring the vast majority who want to maintain the status quo. If this was politics, we would call it gerrymandering.  

WA has even acknowledged in their latest press release that it will be just about impossible to judge: “It is also an event over 10km legs which, due to the fast pace, could make proper and consistent judging challenging.” I pity the judges having to participate in this charade. 

In my opinion, this is not yet the end game, but just a further nail in the coffin by the anti-walking forces in WA and the IOC. They got rid of the 50km, now they have got rid of the 35km and we can guess how long this relay will last. It won’t work and will be dropped after one Olympic cycle and we will be left with one walk (the 20km), which is what they have always been working towards. 

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3 Responses to The End of Race Walking?

  1. Chris Harvey says:

    Well it’ll be a farce with some competitors deliberately lifting as they won’t be pulled. Just time penalties. It sounds utterly ridiculous. It’s turning one of the oldest sports into a circus. It’s bad enough with the general athletes who think walking is a joke. It’ll just get worse. Race walking needs a massive sponsor like Redbull or similar and conduct there own world champs generating big win bonuses. They could even stage teams in marathons and spank the also-rans runners.

  2. Dave Evans says:

    It’s not the first attempt to make the Games more entertaining for the spectators. Once we had rhythmic gymnastics I felt the ambiance of the Games was changing with organisers assuming it was necessary to do something novel to keep viewers entertained. It’s a pity the IOC make these decisions without discussion with the appropriate sports bodies who should have the last say.

  3. Peter Fawkes says:

    What next for the Circus: Mixed (Male/female/other) football, rugby, hockey teams? Will the marathon become a mixed relay event over that iconic distance.

    Traditional Running and Walking have been integral disciplines far longer than a lot of other events and I don’t remember any adverse comments from athletes nor the public on the right for them to be included. However, neither of these have any say in the matter as it’s so called Expert Sporting Bureaucrats who tamper and dictate what it is that the public wants, with total disregard to what they may actually want.

    It’s time we got out of this circus and revert to our own tried and tested discipline of real race walking on a Global scale and place people with an in-depth knowledge of the Sport in charge!

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