ATHLETE HIGHLIGHT: Erin Taylor-Talcott

This morning, just one week after 6 U.S. marathoners qualified for the Olympic team, the 50k Race Walk Olympic Trials were held to decide a similar fate for the top 3 finishers (who would also have to meet the "A" Olympic standard to be nominated). The 50k race, which is about 5 miles longer than the marathon, is the longest event in the Olympic games.
The race was held in Santee, CA this morning, and only the winner, John Nunn, was able to reach the "A" standard and qualify for the Olympic Team.
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Interestingly for the event of 50k race walking, there is no female race available on the international level. This left race walker, Erin Taylor-Talcott, without a chance to compete for a chance to make the Olympic team in her event. As she did in 2012, Erin appealed to be allowed to race in the men's 50k Race Walk Olympic Trials. Erin has trained hard and fought to be allowed entry into large races, where she's made the impressive accomplishments of earning American and World records.
Erin placed 6th overall this morning in the 50k race walk in a time of 4:33:23 (8:48 pace!! 31 miles!! Walking!)
How does a race walker prepare for an event longer than the marathon, walked in a pace faster than most can jog 50k? She trains seriously, walking up to 110 miles a week! We spoke with Erin about her goals, training the lifestyle of a professional race walker.
When did you begin competitive race walking?
I started race walking when I was 11 and did it all through my freshman year in college. Then I transferred to a university that didn't have race walking and took a break. I got started again and trained but not really seriously for a while. I got serious in 2007, but my big breakthrough didn't really happen until 2010. I've been training hard ever since trying to see what I'm capable of doing! What challenges do you face, as an elite female race-walker, that you would like to see changed in the future of your sport?
The biggest thing for me is that there's no 50K in international competition. It's the one inequality left in track and field. I've always been an endurance person and once I started racing 50K races my times improved all the way down to a mile. I would love to see equality in race walking and either create an international women's 50K division, or open the 50K up unisex so that we can all compete together.
How do you train for your event, and what is the lifestyle of a race-walker like? We assume it's a lot of mileage, form and probably comparable to long distance running training but correct me if I'm wrong!
Technique is definitely important in race walking. Since there are judges out there on the course watching you, you have to make sure that you're staying legal. So definitely focusing on technique while you train, watching video, and strengthening exercises are all important. We do have a lot of similarity with long distances, it's just since we're walking it will take a little longer. I'll generally put in 70-90 mile weeks with some weeks around 110 miles, depending on what's coming up.
What are you individual goals for this year's 50k race walk? My hope is to be under 4:35:00. If it's not too crazy hot I may shoot for a bit faster, but sub 4:35:00 would make me very happy!
How you do hope that international competition for elite female race walkers will change? Mostly I hope it'll change due to the inclusion of a 50K!
How can runners help be more supportive?
Race walkers tend to be ridiculed by runners because of how we look. But what they're missing is what a challenging, technical, and demanding sport it is! The 50K is the longest contested footrace in the Olympics and these guys can complete it at a pace under 7:10 per mile. Walking. For longer than a marathon. There are lots of second and third tier runners out there that could really be amazing at race walking if they'd just give it a chance.
There are nine slots open for the Olympics (three for the women's 20K, three for the men's 20K and three for the men's 50K). The US has not filled a full team to the Olympics in quite a while, the opportunity is there! And there are other international teams that people can compete at. Also, many runners over time complain about knee pain. Bad knees is not a problem that race walkers get because there is so much less impact on the body, and the impact we do get is not focused on the knee. With proper training and stretching we are seeing race walkers continue at an elite level into their 40s and in some cases in their 50s. I think if runners tried it, just to see what it's like, they'd be less inclined to ridicule it.
Photos via: NY Times.