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02/07, Sun, 31.1M, USATF 50K Racewalk Championships  
Alexis Davidson M54   
A Tale of Two National 50K Championships: Part 1

I thought it would be fun to do 2 National 50K Championships in one year. The first one was the walking championship on Feb 7, 2010 and the second was the running championship on Mar 20. One had a median finish time of 5:09 and a dead last time of 6:15. The average age of the finishers was 48. Stephen Quirke and Erin Taylor were the winners at 4:23:02 and 4:57:11.

We arrived at the 50K site which is near the KC Royals/Texas Rangers spring training baseball stadium in Surprise AZ near Phoenix. It was 6 am and already 50F. It would get to 59F and sunny by 1pm which is when the last of us finished. The volunteers were in their long johns, sweaters and overcoats and thought we were crazy. Meanwhile, I thought: Heat Wave!!

The course was an L-shaped two-way loop which was 1 kilometer long for a total loop length of 2K. There were pinpoint turns at both ends. We did 25 of these. It was on a blocked off city street. No trees, shade, entertaining sights or rock and roll bands. There were six USATF judges on the course. Each saw us 50 times each during the race. We saw each other coming and going about 50 times.

We got underway at 7am with 25 walkers attempting the 50K distance along with others doing 10 and 20K. Since the field was comprised of many elite walkers, I concentrated on going out slow during the first loop while I got into my rhythm. At the end of the 2nd loop, I got a dreaded bent knee call. Racewalking requires that one maintain contact with the ground at all times, and that the front leg land with a straight knee and that knee must remain straight until vertical. This infraction was my first in four years, and we were only allowed three in the race. I passed the infraction board and noticed that someone (a 10K walker) had already been disqualified from the race. At this point, I was forced to concentrate on each step. This put a huge psychological burden during the remaining 46K of the race.

I was soon passed by an electric auxiliary vehicle with a camera. This made me feel important, since the camera was aimed at me. I soon realized it was aimed at the lead walker, who was about to lap me. This happened several times during the race. Fortunately, I’m a slow learner, and I got a psychological pickup each time it happened.

After 2.5 hours, only the 50K walkers were left. I saw the other walkers coming and going and watched as they become more and more agitated. Walking forms started to deteriorate, some walkers started talking to themselves and 7 imploded towards the end of the race with a DNF or a disqualification. Meanwhile, I had Lithium by Evanescence running through my head. It’s a song about choosing the pain and sorrow of manic depression over the numbness of medication. Later, I realized how appropriate it was.

I made it through the magic 32K (20M) point. I now had 10K remaining to the marathon followed by the additional 8K for the 50. I was feeling very strong and I cruised through for one of my fastest marathon times ever (4:42). This strong feeling continued until 46K and then I did the remaining two loops slowly and conservatively. Bent knee calls are more likely to occur when the walker is tired and I did not want to be disqualified in the last 4K. Finally, I reached the end of my first 50K race with a PR of 5:41:39.