Pluswalking > CAMARADERIE
In the late 1960s, my wife and I bought a Volkwagon bus and headed out for a 4-week tour of the United States. We had not gone far before we realized that almost every other VW bus driver either waved at us or flashed his/her lights at us. We began to imitate their behavior. There was a sense of family, of fellowship, within the ranks of VW bus drivers back then--as, I have come to learn, there generally is among members of any small group of people doing something very different from the norm.
I have never seen that level of camaraderie among runners--even among marathon runners--though it may have existed before I took up running in 1972. But, I did see it from my very first weeks as a race walker in 1992. Race walkers can spot other race walkers (even when they have an awkward style), and they almost always acknowledge one another in passing. I believe that kinship derives from the small number of race walkers, from the difficulty in learning race walking technique and, perhaps, from the reaction of non-race walkers to their "funny" or "odd" walking style.
(David Ring is a Christian evangelist and motivational speaker who suffers from cerebral palsy. I remember hearing him tell the story of his father taking him as a young man to a cerebral palsy convention in San Francisco. There, he was amongst hundreds of other people afflicted by cerebral palsy and, for the first time in his life, he felt "normal." I understand his response, for at race walking events, I too feel normal; and I enjoy being around so many other normal people.)
In learning about ultra walkers and reading their feedback about participating in ultra events, I am convinced that their sense of family is even stronger than that of race walkers. I suspect their camaraderie is greatly intensified by their very small numbers, and by the extreme difficulty of preparing for, and participating in, their grueling events. They also spend a lot of time together during events--often encouraging each other on.
I might add that I have begun to detect a growing sense of family among those who participate in walking half and full marathons (even if there is no significant speed involved), but I doubt it will ever reach the level of intensity experienced by race walkers or ultra walkers.
In sum, I would suggest that a most-important argument for some people taking up fast and/or long walking is the number of good friends and acquaintances they will make along the way.
return to top