Racewalking, or race walking, is a long-distance discipline within the sport of athletics. Although it is a foot race, it is different from running in that one foot must appear to be in contact with the ground at all times. This is assessed by race judges. Typically held on either roads or on running tracks, common distances vary from 3000 metres (1.8 mi) up to 100 kilometres (62.1 mi).
The sport emerged from a British culture of long-distance competitive walking known as pedestrianism, which began to develop the ruleset that is the basis of the modern discipline around the mid-19th century. Since the mid-20th century onwards, Russian and Chinese athletes have been among the most successful on the global stage, with Europe and parts of Latin America producing most of the remaining top level walkers.
Compared to other forms of foot racing, stride length is reduced; to achieve competitive speeds racewalkers must attain cadence rates comparable to those achieved by world-class 800 metres runners.
Races have been walked at distances as short as 3 kilometres (1.9 mi)—at the 1920 Summer Olympics—and as long as 100 km (62.1 mi). The men's world record for the 50-mile race walk is held by Israeli Shaul Ladany, whose time of 7:23:50 in 1972 beat the world record that had stood since 1935. The modern Olympic events are the 20 km (12.4 mi) race walk (men and women) and 50 km (31 mi) race walk (men only). One example of a longer racewalking competition is the annual Paris-Colmar which is 450 to 500 km.
Racewalking developed as one of the original track and field events of the first meeting of the English Amateur Athletics Association in 1880. The first racewalking codes came from an attempt to regulate rules for popular 19th century long distance competitive walking events, called pedestrianism. Pedestrianism had developed, like footraces and horse racing, as a popular working class British and American pastime, and a venue for wagering. Walkers organised the first English amateur walking championship in 1866, which was won by John Chambers, and judged by the "fair heel and toe" rule. This rather vague code was the basis for the rules codified at the first Championships Meeting in 1880 of the Amateur Athletics Association in England, the birth of modern athletics. With football (soccer), cricket, and other sports codified in the 19th century, the transition from professional pedestrianism to amateur racewalking was, while relatively late, part of a process of regularisation occurring in most modern sports at this time.