To ask why pluswalkers don't simply run is similar to asking why hurdlers don't simply sprint--or why butterfly specialists don't simply use the crawl stroke. Pluswalking, like hurdling or swimming the butterfly stroke, offers an interesting combination of fitness and technical challenges that makes it ... well ... interesting. Besides, if raw speed was the only goal, we would probably all be riding bicycles.
First of all, if you enjoy running, congratulations! Keep it up. If you enjoy casual walking, congratulations! Keep doing it. This page is not about converting you; it is about informing you--about helping you understand ALL of the options available to you.
AS I SEE IT, THERE ARE FOUR REASONS TO RUN.
|In general, you can move faster. If faced with a fast-moving grass fire, I certainly would not recommend that you race walk to safety. I also would not recommend that a soldier race walk from building to building while under fire in a combat zone.|
|You really enjoy running. That's great. No more needs to be said.|
|You make a decent living off of running; either through prize money at races, or by having a job in the business of running.|
|For many people, it is the fashionable, the hip, the cool way to get exercise. "I'm a runner" or "I run marathons" generally gets a positive, reinforcing response in a conversation--whereas, "I'm a race walker" or "I walk marathons" generallly gets a polite "oh, that's nice" in response. (The funny thing about this, though, is that many "runners" never leave the ground (they are really walkers), or they walk for much--if not most--of a running event. Yet, when you talk to them before an event, they say (and believe) they are "runners."|
THERE ARE, I BELIEVE, MORE GOOD REASONS TO PLUSWALK. Let me mention what I consider the most important ones.
|Race walkers generally suffer fewer injuries per mile covered than runners. A runner takes flight during each step (which allows faster movement) but then has to suffer the consequences of a harder landing as each foot, upon contact with the ground, has to stop the free fall of the body's weight. The extra shock suffered during each running step quickly adds up and, for many, the lower body begins to make its objections known. Oh, runners point to studies that prove that runners suffer no more injuries than those participating in "other" sports. I agree 100%. Runners are no more prone to injuries than those participating in football, soccer, rugby, lacrosse, basketball, hockey, tennis, etc. They are, however, more prone to injuries than race walkers because race walkers are less prone to injures than those participating in ALL those other sports. Race walking is relatively injury free. Mind you, that's not to say that race walkers never suffer injuries. Those pushing their bodies to their abosolute limites (Olympians and Olympic hopefuls) will always suffer injuries in any sports--as will those who don't use good sense in their training and racing programs. (My personal experience is only anecdotal--but typical of runners-turned-walkers I have met. In 20 years of running, I averaged at least one behavior-altering injury a year. As a race walker, I have had only one (that's one) behavior-altering injury in 16 years--caused when I tried to step up my average pace much too quickly before a marathon.|
|Race walking generally creates a more knowledgeable athlete. Almost anyone can run (or walk) without instruction--and, unfortunately, most do. But most people find it hard to race walk without getting help. In the process, most race walkers become very conscious of their posture, and the position and action of almost every body part. They tend to know what they are doing (or not doing) and why. Top runners have outstanding body awareness, but most runners (and especially joggers) seldom do.|
|Unless you have a disability that prevents you from walking (or running), you can walk all of your life. You simply have to slow down and, perhaps, not walk quite so far. Even at a very slow speed, walking provides outstanding benefits. As a runner, however, you can only run so slow before you actually become a walker who is bouncing up and down. I guess you can continue to run until forced to stop due to injuries and the slower pace of recovery that comes with age, but why wait. And, if you are simply a bouncy walker anyway, why not take the time to learn how to walk properly--and start moving faster.|
|(I will try to be discrete with this reason, but it has to be said.) If you are one of those persons who has been endowed with, or has developed (due to extra portions of food), a bit extra on the front side, pluswalking, done right, does not generate the bounce that almost always comes with running. You do not need special garments to hold you in place, or to prevent discomfort. Pluswalking, especially race walking, teaches you how to spend your energy moving forward--not up and down. The excessive body part requires more effort to get it moving, or to take it up a hill, but, once moving, it moves with your flow and not against it.|
|There are simply fewer pluswalkers. There are so many runners out there they hardly notice one another. But pluswalkers are part of a much, much smaller family. Pluswalkers will always notice one another, and will always try to support each other. (We do have our own family feuds, of course, but just let a runner criticize a pluswalker and those feuds tend to be suspended for the duration.) Fewer also means better for another reason; it is easier to win a prize. For example, to win a berth in the Olympic marathon, a runner has to beat out hundreds of competitors. To win a berth in the Olympic 50K race walk, however, a race walker only has to beat a few serious contenders. The same applies especially to ultrawalkers.|
I personally have tried both modes of progression. I am very glad that I ran for 20 years. It served me well. But I am even more grateful that I was forced to switch to race walking and long-distance walking. Pluswalking has allowed me to extend my pedestrian career to date, and will allow me (God willing) to extend it for many more years to come. Some where, some day, I expect a staff member to ask me to please slow down as I cruise the nursing home halls.