Track Racing Etiquette for Walkers
Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.
By Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.
When racing on a track should you pass on the right or the
left? Does the faster racewalker have the option to force the slower racewalker
to an outside lane? Can a faster walker call out “track” when coming up behind a
slower walker and coerce the slower walker to move over and allow the faster
walker not to have to change lanes? How about if you’re the slower walker who
has been lapped? Then, must you move into lane two?
According to Ian Whatley, a member of the National 20K
Racewalk team, the main concern of every racer should be safety and avoiding a
collision with another walker. The best way to accomplish this is for every
racewalker to stay in the inside lane unless passing another walker. It is the
responsibility of the faster walker to pass the slower walker without
asking the slower walker to move.
Ideally, a faster walker passes on the right when at least
three strides ahead of the slower walker, so as to not impede the stride of the
slower walker. There is nothing more irritating than a walker who speeds up just
enough to pass you, then slows back down as soon as he is in front of you in the
same lane. Kind of sounds like rush hour on the expressway, doesn’t it?
Ian understands that everyone wants to do their best time.
It’s not fair for a faster walker to expect a slower walker to move over and
relinquish those seconds to the faster walker’s time. When Ian competed in a
recent 20K, on a track in New Orleans, he lapped people 48 times. Yet, it was
his obligation to go around them, which he did, while everyone stayed in the
inside lane. Furthermore, Ian says the worst scenario is not knowing whether the
walker is going to move over or hold his ground, thereby risking a collision.
There are exceptions to the usual rule that a competitor
should pass on the outside. One would be in the case that the meet director
declares a different “rule for the day.” The other exception is if a
competitor is on a track with racewalkers who are much faster and the competitor
knows that he will be repeatedly lapped. He may choose to move to the outside
half of lane one, thereby giving the faster competitors the ability to pass on
the inside as the slower walker still remains in the inside lane.
When it doubt, pass on the outside and make safety your