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Not Impressed By Man Winning Walking Race? You Should Be

Liam Godinho
By Liam Godinho
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The country has exploded with excitement today over Robert Heffernan's win in the 50km race walk at the IAAF World Athletics Championships this morning. But not everyone may appreciate just how incredible an accomplishment it really was.

Here are six reasons why you should be impressed.

1. 50km is the distance from Dublin's O'Connell Bridge to Maynooth and back again. It is also roughly the distance from Waterford to Kilkenny and Cork to Youghal. Google Maps suggests it would take around 10 hours to walk each of these routes. Heffernan's time was three hours, 37 minutes and 56 seconds.


2. The humidity in Moscow this morning was reportedly at 88%. You can't walk outside your front door in 88% humidity without being drenched in sweat. Try doing competitive sport in it.

3. Prior to today, Russia had won three gold and three silver World Championship medals in this event in the past 10 years, as well as one gold, one silver and two bronze medals in the Olympics in the same period. Heffernan was competing in Moscow in a sport dominated by Russians. As the man himself told Will Downing afterwards, this was the race walking equivalent of Rocky vs Ivan Drago.


4. Heffernan's average speed was 13.8 km/h (8.6 mph). That's almost four metres per second and a kilometre every 4 minutes, 22 seconds. You can't drive a kilometre in the centre of Dublin that quickly.

5. At 35, Heffernan is the oldest champion since Veniamin Soldatenko of the Soviet Union won what is considered the first 50km World Championship event in 1976 in Malmo. Heffernan is now among the oldest athletics champions of all time. For a man once dubbed "Mr 4th" by an athletics publication according to the IAAF, it's better late than never.


6. Although we in Ireland like to think of ourselves as a sports-mad country, when it comes to athletics we just can't compete. Though there have been plenty of heroic performances and near misses, medals are a rarity, with six in 30 years. So make the most of it while it lasts; who knows when the next time will be?

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