Pluswalking > LOOKING "FUNNY"
When I started running on the streets in early 1972 at age 29, I would slow to a walk and get up on the sidewalk when a car approached. In those days, an adult out running on the streets was "funny looking" and I responded to that feeling. I quickly got over my self-consciousness and continued running for 20 years. Now, no one thinks twice about seeing (most) runners on the streets. Then, when I started race walking on the streets in late 1992 at age 50, I again felt self-conscious.
No matter how you personally respond to the look of a fast walker, it is fair to say that a majority of people think they look "funny" in some sense of the word. A few people give me positive feedback, some feel compelled to make a well-intentioned-but-often-odd comment, but most seem to bend over backwards to not make eye contact. (I have heard people with physical disabilities describe encountering the same response from passers-by.)
I have spent many years trying to walk fast without looking funny. I have tried to imitate the smoothest race walker I have personally seen; Jefferson Perez of Ecuador. (I assure you I am a very poor imitation of Perez.) The bottom line, however, is that, even when I feel like I am gliding on air, my own shadow looks funny to me when I see it. It says something about me that I care ... but I don't care. I care, but I am not about to give up the joy I feel, and the benefits I get, when I am out there walking "fast." In fact, truth be told, I have passed through the "don't-care-if-I-look-funny" phase and entered the "proud-of-looking-funny" world.
Bob Costas of NBC Sports poked fun at race walking during a late-night telecast of the 2000 Olympic Games, then added that race walking "is like having a contest to see who can whisper the loudest." Perhaps that's true. But it is also true about swimming the butterfly stroke--if you want to go fast, why not swim freestyle? And, it is also true about the hurdles--if you want to run fast, why put barricades up to slow you down?
We talk about gaggles of geese and herds of horses. I hope you someday have the great pleasure of joining a funny-looking, wiggle of walkers. Then you too can try to whisper as loud, or as long, as you can.
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