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An Illustrated History of Race Walking

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The early days of race walking
An Illustrated History of Race Walking

Italy's Ugo Frigerio wins the 10-kilometer race walk at the 1924 Olympics

IOC Olympic Museum/Allsport/Getty Images
Walking competitions originated in England approximately 400 years ago. When aristocrats traveled between towns they’d often bring footmen to walk beside their coaches. The nobility eventually pitted their footmen against those of other aristocrats and wagered on the results, with races frequently going 100 miles or more over several days. By the 19th Century, walking races between towns were extremely popular.

Race walking entered the Olympics in 1904 when an 880-yard walk was a part of the 10-event “all-around” competition that eventually morphed into the decathlon. There was a 3000-meter race walk in the unofficial 1906 Games, then race walking made its official Olympic debut in 1908 with 3500-meter and 10-mile events (both won by Great Britain’s George Larmer). Walking events have since taken place at several distances. The 50-kilometer race walk became an Olympic event in 1932; the 20-kilometer men's event replaced the 10-kilometer walk in 1956.

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