Race Walking is a technical sport and the rules can be complex and indeed can seen to be very confusing.
There are two categories of race walking depending upon the race : national/international championship ("A" race) and domestic races ("B" race)
a) In category A races, the rules are:
race walking is a progression of steps so taken that the walker makes contact with the ground so that no visible (to the human eye) loss of contact occurs. 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, except as provided in (b), below.
b) In category B races, the rules state: the provision in (a), above, relating to the straightening of knees shall not apply.
As a technical sport, judges are positioned around the course to ensure everyone complies with the rules ie walking and not breaking into a trot or run (the contact rule) and that the legs are kept straight...ie the leading leg must be straight at the knee when the foot touches the ground and remain straight until the leg is vertical (the "bent knee" rule).
In race walking speak, this means the judges will only judge on "contact", ie, one foot must be in contact with the ground at any one time (or words to that effect). The "bent leg" rule is not in contention here.
No electronic aids are used in judging competitions as the rules stipulate that any breach of the regulations must be visible to the naked eye. Therefore, when a judge sees a walker in danger of breaking one of the rules, he or she may caution the walker before an official "card" is shown to the athlete. However, there are trials now underway to test electronic chips in footwear.. watch this space!
The Centurion qualifying races always operate under the rules of the race walking governing body, which in the UK, is the Race Walking Association (RWA). Even though it may be a championship race, consideration is given to the distance to be walked, so as a long distance race, the 100 mile event is generally designated a "B" race.
However, walkers must still be careful of their knees in order to satisfy the judges that they are not on the verge of "trotting"...!
As race walking is a "technical sport" this means it is a "judged sport" and as such,in order to enforce the rules, judges are positioned around the course to ensure that competitors comply with the rules. The duty of a Chief Walking Judge is to organise the team of judges allocated to walks, whether on the track or on the road. Secondly, the duty of each individual walking judge is to apply the rules of walking and method of judging to the walkers taking part.
How do athletes know they are trangressing the rules?
(1) AYELLOW "PADDLE" is a CAUTION, which is just that - an advice to a competitor to be careful as they are in danger of breaching the rules. This advice is given via a yellow paddle bearing one of two symbols: a squiggle ~ for loss of contact, or an arrowhead>for a bent knee.
A competitor can receive YELLOW PADDLES from every judge on the course, but no more than two (one for each offence) from the same judge.
If there were 8 judges on the course, a competitor could, in an extreme case, receive 16 YELLOW PADDLES in a race and still be entitled to finish!
Note: The number of YELLOW PADDLES a competitor receives has NO bearing on whether or not they have been reported to the Chief judge for actually breaking the rules.
(2) ARED CARDis a silent communication between the on-course judges and the Chief judge. This means that the athlete is not informed of any red card issued. A judge issues a RED CARD if a competitor has actually infringed the contact or bent knee rules. A competitor may be 'red carded' only twice and still be allowed to compete - on notification of a third RED CARD the Chief Judge shall indicate to the competitor via a red paddle that they are disqualified and must leave the course immediately.
there is NO connection between the number of YELLOW PADDLES (CAUTIONS) a competitor receives and the act of issuing RED CARDS against them for actual rule infringement. A YELLOW PADDLE is there to assist the walker; a RED CARD is to sanction them.
there is no such thing as a 'warning'. This term has not been used for some time, yet it still causes confusion today when it is used interchangeably (and inaccurately) with both CAUTION and RED CARD.
the only way competitors (or spectators) can be made aware that a RED CARD has been issued against any competitor is via the Red Card Posting Board, also known as the Disqualification (DQ) Board, which displays the competitor's number plus an image bearing one of the 'contact' or 'bent knee' symbols. A competitor who sees their own number on this board plus one (or two) of the symbols knows they have been reported at least once for rule infraction. At NO TIME will an on-course judge communicate directly to an athlete that a RED CARD has been issued against them.
If the walker is breaking a rule, the judge fills in a disqualification card with the walker’s number, the fault and the time, and then signs the Card.
There should be at least one Judges’ Runner to convey the card to the Chief Judge or the Chief Judge’s Recorder (the official who checks the paper work of the individual judges);
When the card has been checked for completeness, the Chief Judge or Recorder puts the walker’s number on the penalty board, normally near the finish of a lap, with a red cross or red magnetic "blob" next to it.
This means that the walker can see that he or she has lost a ‘life’. The judge then notifies the Chief Judge.
To further complicate matters, a time penalty may be given to individual walkers before a final disqualification. This tends to happen in longer distance races of 6 hours up to 28 hours or longer (Note that this also happens in triathons!)
Chief Judge - role and duties
under IAAF rules:
(a) the Chief Judge has the power to disqualify an athlete in the last 100m of a race when their mode of progression obviously fails to comply with certain rules (regardless of the number of previous Red Cards the Chief Judge has received on that athlete) (b) The Chief Judge shall act as the supervising official for the competition.
If a walker gets three disqualification cards - each from a different judge, the Chief Judge shows the walker a red batonwhich is the disqualification sign. The walker then leaves the track/road and removes his or her number.
NOTE: This can also happen after the race has finished, if the third card comes in late in the event.
If there are sufficient judges, the Chief Judge does not actuallydo any judging:
His/her duties are then to see the race judges are equipped with blank disqualification cards and slips on which cautions and disqualifications can be recorded;
the CHief Judge will "distribute" the judges round the course so that they are fairly equally spaced, and place the penalty board so that the walkers can see it (but the judges cannot).
All judges work independently and it must be ensured that they cannot be influenced by the actions of other judges.
The Chief Judge collects the slips from the judges and fills in the master sheet showing all cautions and disqualifications.
At major walks (eg Championships), the master sheet is circulated to all judges so that they can compare their judgements.
At the end of a race, any disqualified walker can ask the Chief Judge the reasons for the disqualification cards.
In a long distance race, clothing can present a problem for some judges and referees....
The general rule in race walking competitions is that the knees must be "uncovered" in order that a judge can actually see the "straight" knee in operation...
But, in races of 100 miles or 24 hours, the rules differ slightly in that these races are "B" races, meaning that no walker will get disqualified for bent knees.
So, in our Centurion qualifying races of 100 miles/24 hours, this rule on the length of shorts covering the knee is relaxed as our races operate under the "B" rules.
However some judges find that bent knees plus a high turn-over rate makes continuous contact difficult to judge. Unlike the more " formal" race walking, it will be up to the walker to demonstrate continuous contact!
But, what of the "long shorts" ie those covering the knee (such as capri length tights, etc) which many walkers wear and actually obscure most if not all of a knee.....
Leggings, tracksters, long tights, etc are the norm in 100 mile and 24 hour events - especially during the night /winter and in times of inclement weather. Always check with the Chief Judge before the start. However, there are occasions where the Referees may insist that where long tights are worn, they should be plain (ie not multi coloured patterened..) so the judges can better see the angle of the knees.
Given that the "bent knee " rule does not apply - this insistence is questionable in a 100 miles/24 hour races.
If in doubt - always check with the Chief Judge prior to the race start.
UK Athletics have now clarified the situation in that race walkers should be treated in the same way as runners if they are no longer a member of an affiliated club.
To this end, they have confirmed that:
“Previously attached athletes can revert to ‘unattached’ status for road (running and walking), fell, hill, mountain or trail events. This does not apply to track (running and walking), field or cross country events”.
Please remember that any athletes who are members of an affiliated club must be registered through their home nation body (e.g. England Athletics) to be eligible to compete in any event held under UKA rules.
Note: National championships are only open to registered athletes. Other competition providers may, if they so wish, impose stricter criteria such as compulsory registration.