A funny thing happened one day

I’ve never blogged before, never wanted to, really, but after reading my fourth or fifth email about my current training endeavors, my friend Ted said “Have you considered doing a blog on this whole race thing?” I’m awfully busy, so I said “well, I suppose I could do that if you could set it all up for me” and Ted’s a pretty smart guy, so he mailed me my password, and here I am. This post is supposed to explain how I’ve come to be on this particular journey, but I’m thinking the real answer to that is so long and complicated and intertwined with so many life events, the best I can hope for is to just pick a day and start.

I’m a racewalker. Like many people, you may read that and think “oh, one of those power walkers” or “hmm, that’s speedwalking, right?” but actually, racewalking is different from both of those, its a sport that’s been in the Olympics since the start of the 20th century (well, for men, anyway). Racewalk competitions have judges who stare at your legs as you go by, prepared to disqualify you if you don’t have one foot on the ground, or if you don’t land on a straight leg. Racewalking is primarily an endurance event — standard competition distances range from one mile to 50k. I’m not a very fast racewalker, although being a moderate racewalker makes one a very fast walker, and I do pass joggers. I’m certainly not an elite athlete — this whole walking thing is a bad case of Adult Onset Athletics for me. In real life, I’m a scientist, but I got hooked on the really amazing feeling 5 miles into a walk when it all clicks, and I’m just smooth and fast, and there’s nothing else.

This past year, reading all about the Racewalk World Cup, it occurred to me that there was no 50k for women, only a men’s event. The same had been true in the 2004 Olympics. So I wrote a post to the racewalk group on yahoo, and asked “why isn’t there a 50k for women?” I got several answers, from officials, from racewalkers, but this story is all about one particular reply:

“50k for women? I can only think of 3: kitchen, kids, and kleenex.”

I was alone when I read this, so nobody heard what I said aloud, and that’s just as well. I sat there at my desk for awhile, thinking up the rudest replies I could post. But in the end, I found myself really, really wanting to do a 50k, just to show this guy he was wrong. Way, totally, incredibly, cluelessly WRONG. Of course, that was just a wildly impractical plan. Let me emphasize for the metric-impaired, that 50k is *31 MILES*! Marathon plus 5. I’ve walked 5 marathons, and not once have I crossed the finish line thinking “oh, if only I had 5 more miles to go.” I’ve crossed thinking “WATER” or “ICE” or “OUCH” and once even “MEDIC TENT” (a more complicated thing, putting two words together after mile 22) but not one thought of greater longer glory.

One day in August, I found myself sitting in a brewpub with a bunch of racewalkers. I told my “kitchen, kids, kleenex” story to the 4 other women at my table. “Makes me just want to do the damn race, just to show them.” The woman sitting across from me slammed her glass down on the table. “I’m in!” My mouth gaping from this reaction, the woman next to her said “Me too.” And so our team was born.

We are Western Women Go the Distance, and we are training for the USA National Championship 50k racewalk in January 2007. Our numbers have varied between 5 and 7, and we are from various Western States. We all have demanding jobs, and various cares like houses and pets and families. And we’re all pretty strong, so its really pretty likely that more than one of us will be crossing that finish line come January. Am I ever looking forward to writing *that* post!

2 Responses to “A funny thing happened one day”

  1. Barb Shimasaki Says:

    Western Women rock! Many congratulations on your acheivements!
    I was checking the results to see how my buddy Erin Taylor made out on sunday when I noticed all the members of your team on the results list. As an east coast 50-55 female racewalker who trains to go the distance, I rejoiced to see all your names and your fantastic finish times!!!
    Recover well, and rest up for your next challenge. You are all my heroines!!!
    Barb Shimasaki

  2. Karen Karavanic Says:

    Wow, thanks, Barb!

    “trains to go the distance”, huh? Hope I get to meet you at a race sometime soon! Maybe the 40k in September?… Or perhaps we’ll get you interested in the Portland Marathon judged racewalk division?

    Great to know you’re out there!