Walk This Way – By Anel Oosthuizen
As a young girl watching athletics, I always admired how some athletes could run around a track non-stop and not seem to get tired. When I started race walking, doing just the 1500m, it felt like the longest three laps of my life, never even imagining that one day I would want to attempt a 50-lapper 20km! If I look back now, I realise how one’s mindset and perception of things plays such a big role in achieving your goals.
I started my athletics career when I was still in school and grew up doing a lot of track racing and learning about race walking through track. For me it has always felt a bit more nerve-wracking racing on the track, as it feels like I am surrounded by judges on every corner. (Which you actually are, because there are normally four judges on a 400m track, together with a main judge.)
As I always tell new race walking athletes that have just moved up to a new distance, the track should not be seen as your enemy, nor should you look at your distance as a large, frightening number of laps. What really works for me is taking it one lap at a time, concentrating on my time per lap and always trying to improve on the previous one. It goes by so quickly, and before you know it you will get that golden sound of the final lap bell ringing in your ears. The most crucial thing is to concentrate on something completely different than the amount of times that you have to walk around the same loop.
Lastly, it always feels like I have to concentrate more on technique when I am racing on the track, as you go around bends much more and also may be passing or lapping slower athletes, so concentrating on the perfection of locking your knee properly with every step is of utmost importance. How you walk around the track can either let you finish without any problems, or it can get you ‘into trouble’ with the judges and result in you standing in the pit lane watching as your fellow walkers are passing by. My motto is simply to keep your feet on the ground at all times. Literally and figuratively!
About the Author: Race Walker Anel Oosthuizen is a multiple SA Champion and Record Holder, who represented SA at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
IMAGE: Courtesy Anel Oosthuizen