03/01/2021   Koji Hoga Miura (JPN): the reasons why the definition of race walking should be adapted



Koji Hoga Miura, a well-known university biomechanics and collaborator of the Head Coach of the Japanese national walking team, Fumio Imamura, sent us, with a prayer for publication, this report in which he explains the reasons why, in his opinion, it would be necessary a re-writing of the race walking rule, more suited to current times and current technology.


We have fully proposed it to our readers so that they can form a profound opinion.

Those interested can contact Hoga at the following e-mail:  Koji Hoga Miura





Difference between running and walking expressed in language


The technical rules of athletics define race walking as:


(1) the walker makes contact with the ground so that no loss of contact occurs, 


(2) the advancing leg must be straightened (i.e. not bent at the knee) from the moment of first contact with the ground until the vertical upright position, and 


(3) judged by the human eye.  


In addition, many of textbooks of kinesiology, define the boundary between running and normal walking as whether or not keep contact with the ground by support foot.

On the other hand, even world-excellent race walkers, who are praised as “ideal” by expertise international race walking judges, occurs slight time loss of contact with the ground.  Although these walkers finished many times of high-level international competitions without any yellow paddles and red cards issued by international race walking judges who judged on those competitions, one or two frames of loss of contact were detected by home-video cameras with 60 fps.


Such contradictions have been commonly known for about these 30 years, after home video tape recording cameras became spread widely within sport scene.  However, these facts have not been resolved until today even it has been taken 30 years.  It is likely that the validity of rules and the definitions for race walking might be possible to be questioned.  On 2002, 18 years ago, an article which I authored about the rules of race walking in our Japanese domestic research journal of "The Japanese Journal of Biomechanics in Sports and Exercise" proposed that the wording of loss of contact in the technical rules of athletics in that times was thought in an era, about 100 years ago, when video equipment has not been innovated and spread yet.  Also that article mentioned that it might be redefined along with the development and spread of visual equipment such as high-speed video cameras.



Difference between running and walking expressed in non-language


Figure shows an illustration of "a man jogging" and "a man walking" published in "Cute Free Material Collection Illusto-Ya" opened on the web (2020, Illusto-Ya).




Although the figure does not clearly show the identification between running (jogging) and walking, it may be clear to anyone. However, since this illustrations do not indicate where the ground is, the distinguish between running and walking in this figure is based on a criterion different from the "keep or lose contact with the ground" which was mentioned in the section above.

The same relationships can be seen in many of movies with animations and cartoons.  When we humans visually judge and distinguish "this is running" and "this is walking", it may be not the presence or absence of contact with the ground, but "motion patterns of humans ".


It may be considered that the judgment in race walking is also made by recognition the "motion pattern of human".  Even if you ask the experienced international race walking judges and coaches from the traditional race walking countries who have judged and trained many international high-level athletes, the judgment whether "this is running or walking" maybe depend on that non-verbal recognition.  So, it is likely to be clear that there are movement patterns that are commonly recognised.

The exiled Polish Coach Mr. Hausleber, who has been trained the Mexican race walking which has swept the world in the 1980s and 90s, said on the teaching of walking technic, "When a child, who sees race walking for the first time, say that it is walking, not running, the technic is correct as race walking". This word explains that such non-verbal pattern recognition comes first, and it is thought that the wording of the competition rules was somehow verbalised to the extent possible with the technology at that time because it was necessary to verbalise it as a rule. 

We reported on the biomechanical analyses of loss of contact at an international competition which were conducted about 15 years that there was no relationship between the length of the loss of contact phase time and the presence or absence of loss of contact judgment. It can be said that the contradiction occurs between nonverbal pattern recognition and linguistic rule definition as described above.



Difference between running and walking in biomechanical aspect


Then, how would it be like to describe the difference between running and walking in Fig. 1 by language?  Which one was drawn as running and which one was as walking?


You can find the distinction between running and walking on the web site for "Illusto-Ya". Figure 1a is an "illustration of a walking man" and Figure 1b is an "illustration of a jogging man". 


Comparing these two figures, there is almost no difference in the upper body. The elbow of the left arm pulled backward is only slightly extended in the picture of running.  On the other hand, what about the lower body?  In the hip joint, it can be seen that is more extended backward and forward in running than that in the walking.  Also, you can clearly see that the right foot is kicked up and the ankle is higher than the knee in running.  The angle of the knee joint is slightly more flexed than in walking with the kicking right foot.  Such kind of illustrations for specific exercises needs to be drawn as everybody can recognise what kind of exercise it shows just looking once.  So, it must emphasise the properties of that exercise well.  These characteristics of running and walking shown in these figures are also reported with the evidence of biomechanics parameters.


On the data of Dr. Ralph Mann (1982), comparing the changes in the joint angle of the lower limbs, the distinctive border between running and walking was described.  

During the entire cycle from the heel-contact to another heel contact of the same side through toe-off of running and walking, the range of motion of both flexion and extension of hip joint is larger in running than in walking.  

In particular, flexion starts after takeoff in running, whereas flexion starts before takeoff in walking. This point is consistent with the range of the forward and backward opening of the hip joint in the illustration and the range of the kick up after toe-off.  At the knee joint, the flexion is greater when running both at heel-contact and toe-off, which is also consistent with the flexion of the knee after kicking in the illustration, and the extended knee at the moment of heel-contact.  These evidence matches the definition of the race walking in technical rules, “the advancing leg must be straightened (i.e. not bent at the knee) from the moment of first contact with the ground until the vertical upright position”.


From this point of view, running may be possible to be defined as "a step to take off while extending the hip joint" and as ”the hip joint flexion before touch down is large, and from there, swing back with the knee bent and touch down”.  

Also, walking may be possible to be defined as "the hip joint flexion before touch-down is small, and the hip are swung-back and the knee is extended while contact".

Because these hip motion in walking may help lower locus of swing foot during walking, race walkers can make shorten or diminish his/her loss of contact time.  These definitions may encourage walkers to walk more correctly under the present rules, also help race walking judges to make easy and clear judgment.

The easy and clear judgement may be the key for the global development of race walking.


So, the biomechanical research for the judgment under the present rules should be conducted in order to investigate how the race walking judges recognise as race walking with their pattern recognition.



Koji Hoga Miura





Illusto-Ya(2020): “Cute materials of illustrations”, https://www.irasutoya.com, (reference: 2020-12-10)


Mann, R.(1982): American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeon Symposium on the foot and leg in running sports, Mosby Co., St.Louis, pp129.