WICHITA, Kan.—Brenda McCollum is like anyone else in the sense that she doesn’t remember learning to walk. But she took it one step further and said that she doesn’t remember to race walk, either.
For her and her sister Aadrian, it just happened. Both are race walkers and both are good at it.
Race walking requires an odd, jerky and almost awkward motion that helps the walkers propel forward. One foot must be one the ground at all times and the knee cannot bend more than 90 degrees when the foot is one the ground. If these rules are broken three times, the walker is disqualified.
The sisters have almost mastered the rather complicated motion to become two of the top race walkers in the country, and proved it Wednesday when the two dominated the competition in their age groups.
“I’ve just been doing this for as long as I can remember,” said Brenda, the younger of the two. “I would have been competing longer, but the rules have age requirements, so I’m in my eighth year competitively.”
She hopes to attend Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa after she graduates, a small NAIA school of 750 students. NAIA is the only division of collegiate athletics that offer race walking.
Ashford boasts as many students as the girls’ hometown of Madison, Kan.
The sisters walk six miles every other day with their mom as the coach.
“We do a lot of distance work,” said Aadrian. “We go at a pretty decent pace and the other two days of the week we do some lifting.”
She said that some girls can over-train for the event, but that hasn’t been a problem for her or her sister. With the odd motion used in race walking, it can be expected that competitors will experience hip, shin and knee pain. If competitors use improper technique, over-training could be extremely detrimental to its leg joints.
However, the race walking motion takes much less strain on the body than running does, and Aadrian said she hasn’t had much problem with any leg joints.
“My freshman year I had a little hip pain,” said Aadrian. “But other than that I’ve been fine. You don’t get shin splints from walking like you do running and it’s much easier on your knees.”
Aadrian started out as a track runner, but “wasn’t very good.” So, she took to race walking. She still runs cross country.
Race walking has become a family affair in the McCollum household and will be for quite a while.