2010 - Race Walking State of the Union Address
In recent weeks a number of events have transpired that have lead me to write up this review. First, I went to the European Race Walking Coach's Conference in Leeds England. While I knew before going that America was behind, it is only afterwards that I realized how far behind we are. I planned to write a public review (which follows), but a few other events occurred that I feel merits comment.
The recent breakthrough by Trevor Barron, although not unexpected, shows that we can compete on the world stage. Trevor has a wonderful support system and his future is bright. It's one of the first times in years that I feel we are moving in the right direction, even if on an individual level. Tim Seaman's efforts with Champions International is paying dividends.
Our Race Walking Clinic of Excellence in Springfield, IL was of note as well. While the clinic was fine it was two aspects of the clinic that gives me hope for race walking. The first was that there was a clinic in Springfield, IL. Spearheaded by Brent Bohlen, author of "Boomerwalk", Brent was one of the first active race walkers in Springfield just a few years ago. Learning at a Dave McGovern clinic he became an enthusiast wanting to spread the word. He wrote Boomerwalk and started evangelizing race walking to the masses. In addition to the people he lead nationally, this lead to a sold out clinic, where no active race walking activities existed a few years earlier. In addition, it lead to an opportunity for 12 NAIA athletes to attend the clinic for free. We typically discount college athletes to a $50 entry fee, but Ginger Mulanex raised the money for their fee so they got coaching at no cost right at the beginning of the season. Why do I bring this all up? We don't need to wait for USATF, a larger group, or big funds to have an impact. Brent's actions have lead to a thriving walking community where there was none before. Communities like this support the up-and-coming elite walkers and through efforts like this we can rebuild our national race walking program. If 100 Brents existed out there we could have thousands of new race walkers supporting our elite and future elite race walkers. Currently, we have a number of young race walkers with incredibly bright futures, but we need to be able to support them financially, emotionally and with infrastructure. That means going out and building your local walking program.
The second event was the 100th Coney Island race walk. An historical walk by definition, it is the oldest continual race walking event in the country. This year's effort saw a nice turnout to the boardwalk, but nothing like the old days. My fear next year and future years this event will suffer. We need a grass roots movement to build the base back up. When I was just starting I walked in NYC for the first time, it was a local race and I finished 6th with a time of 48:something for a 10K. Think about the depth we had just 20+ years ago. We need to have that again.
In addition, I gave a lecture at Texas A&M and in the process found out they teach 1,000 students a year in a walking gym class where they teach race walking. I am working with them to see what we can do to build on their efforts. Clearly, there are sources of walkers out there, we just have to do a better job recruiting and retaining them.
The story continues