Swedish race walker Perseus Karlstrom (© Getty Images)
Perseus Karlstrom (SWE)
World 20km race walk bronze medallist, Swedish record-holder
My passion for race walking started early.
I remember riding my bike with my older brothers from the age of four while my mother (Siv, the 1981 World Race Walking Cup champion) completed her training sessions.
My first race walking experience came at the age of seven after I was entered in a 500m race. We did an out-and-back on a partly asphalt, gravel surface. I won the race and I distinctly remember the joy of competing. I had previously played competitive soccer, but I didn’t get that same competitive enjoyment out of soccer that I did race walking.
My mother has continued to be a big influence on developing my passion for race walking. In the early years she would set a four-week training programme for my siblings and I to complete in the summer months. She has always been very encouraging but never pushed us to compete. She used to jump in training sessions with me and although she is no longer my coach she plays an active role in training by often accompanying me during my sessions.
Breaking down the race walking, I love both the endurance element and the technical aspects. Training for race walking, you are dealing with extreme endurance. Thankfully I enjoy pushing my body to the limit to see how far I can go. To enjoy race walking, you need to be able to learn to embrace the pain and to be able to suffer for a long time.
Yet what separates us from endurance running is that race walking has very important technical components. It doesn’t matter if you are fresh or tired, you always have to remember to follow the race walking rules. I think a huge factor in why I love race walking is the combination of technical awareness and endurance that is required to excel.
I am at my happiest when my endurance and technique are in perfect sync. I might be 20 kilometres into a 25km training session or doing a rep session of four minutes per kilometre and I feel like I’m in a total flow. I’m feeling good, and walking with a fluid stride. That is when I most enjoy my sport.
Race walking has given me so much. It has allowed me to travel the world, experience different cultures and form international friendships.
For me, race walking offers that perfect combination of technique and endurance.
I would say to any budding athlete: be open-minded, try all the athletics events – including race walking – and just give it a go!
Steve Landells for World Athletics