50 years on and still stepping out

Racewalkers Geoff Barker, left, and Robin Whyte, who used to walk from Parkes to Belconnen most mornings during his working life. Photo by Andrew Finch

Racewalkers Geoff Barker, left, and Robin Whyte, who used to walk from Parkes to Belconnen most mornings during his working life. Photo by Andrew Finch

ON June 12, the ACT Walkers Club is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its major annual racewalking event, the Lake Burley Griffin Walking Carnival, known as the “LBG” which started in 1967 as a 20-mile (32kms) competition race walk.

One of the competitors in the first event was 73-year-old Robin Whyte, who hasn’t missed the chance to stride out and racewalk twice around Lake Burley Griffin every year since.

Although racewalking is a foot race, it’s different from running in that one foot must appear to be in contact with the ground at all times.

Robin says that racewalking is an easy sport to pick up and has so many benefits for health. After moving to Canberra from Perth in 1962, he fell into the sport and hasn’t looked back.
“I have enjoyed that walking has been an injury-free experience for me,” he says.

In addition to the annual LBG carnival, Robin used to walk from Parkes to Belconnen most mornings during his working life. Now, he walks three times a week with the walking club.

He admits that racewalking has a very distinctive physicality to it and that some people find it hard not to break into a jog.

“You must maintain contact with the ground at all times,” says Robin.

“When you want to go faster, you must stride out and use your hips to do that!”

Canberra’s first big walk… start of the 1967 Lake Burley Griffin Open 20-Mile Walk won by Frank Clark of NSW.

Canberra’s first big walk… start of the 1967 Lake Burley Griffin Open 20-Mile Walk won by Frank Clark of NSW.

Attracting competitors from interstate and overseas, the LBG welcomes fitness walkers, and has divisions ranging from children to seniors, competing in races ranging from two to 32kms.

Event co-ordinator Geoff Barker says that he came to walking 10 years ago as a “broken-down runner” after his knee gave way from the impact of running.

He says he expects 200-300 walkers for the 50th anniversary carnival, despite Olympians, including ACT walker Brendan Reading, unable to participate this year due to their preparations for the Rio games.

Geoff encourages fitness and racewalkers of all abilities to come along and be part of the celebratory walk.

The Lake Burley Griffin Walking Carnival, June 12, starting at Weston Park. More at actwalkers.com.au

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