The Victorian Race Walking Club

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The Rules of Racewalking Simplified


The following JUDGING SUMMARY was prepared by Ray Smith and Stu Cooper in 2006.

(1) A YELLOW PADDLE is a CAUTION, which is just that - an advice to a competitor to be careful as he/she is in danger of breaching the rules. This advice is given via a yellow paddle bearing one of two symbols: a squiggle for loss of contact, or an arrowhead for a bent knee. A competitor can receive YELLOW PADDLES from every judge on the course, but no more than two (one for each offence) from the same judge. If there were 9 judges on the course, a competitor could, in an extreme case, receive 18 YELLOW PADDLES in a race and still be entitled to finish.

The number of YELLOW PADDLES a competitor receives has NO bearing on whether or not they have been reported to the Chief judge for actually breaking the rules.

(2) A RED CARD is a silent communication between the on-course judges and the Chief judge. A judge issues a RED CARD if a competitor has actually infringed the contact or bent knee rules. A competitor may be 'red carded' only twice and still be allowed to compete - on notification of a third RED CARD the Chief judge shall indicate to the competitor via a red paddle that they are disqualified and must leave the course immediately.

Again, there is NO connection between the number of YELLOW PADDLES (CAUTIONS) a competitor receives and the act of issuing RED CARDS against him/her for actual rule infringement. A YELLOW PADDLE is there to assist the walker; a RED CARD is to sanction them.

Note also that there is no such thing as a 'warning'. This term has not been used for some time, yet it still causes confusion today when it is used interchangeably (and inaccurately) with both CAUTION and RED CARD.

The red and yellow paddles

(3) The only way competitors (or spectators) can be made aware that a RED CARD has been issued against any competitor is via the Disqualification Board, which shall display the competitor's number plus an image bearing one of the 'contact' or 'bent knee' symbols. A competitor who sees their own number on this board plus one (or two) of the symbols knows they have been reported at least once for rule infraction. At NO TIME will an on-course judge communicate directly to an athlete that a RED CARD has been issued against them.

It should also be noted that NO athlete should be made aware of their current RED CARD situation by way of on-course commentary, radio or TV. If any one athlete can be so informed, it follows that every other competitor would expect the same privilege, which would have to be guaranteed in the interest of fairness.

Chief Judge

3. (a) In competitions held under IAAF Rule 1(a), (b), (c), (d), the Chief Judge has the power to disqualify an athlete inside the stadium when the race finishes in the stadium or in the last 100m when the race takes place solely on the track or on the road course, when his/her mode of progression obviously fails to comply with the paragraph 1 above regardless of the number of previous Red Cards the Chief Judge has received on that athlete. An athlete who is disqualified by the Chief Judge under these circumstances shall be allowed to finish the race.

(b) The Chief Judge shall act as the supervising official for the competition, and act as a Judge only in the special situation noted in paragraph (a) above in competitions under IAAF Rule 1(a), (b), (c) and (d).

In competitions held under IAAF Rule 1(a), (b) and (c), a maximum of two Chief Judge's Assistants shall be appointed. The Chief Judge's Assistant(s) are to assist with the notification of disqualifications only and shall not act as Race Walking Judges.


To be shown to competitor to advise disqualification when that competitor has 3 RED CARDS against his/her race number
To be shown to competitor to indicate a caution - this is NOT an infringement
RED CARDS To be written up to signify infringements. Red cards are not shown to the competitor but are to be sent to the Chief Judge

The IAAF Guide is the definitive document for all racewalk organizers and judges. A copy of the 2016 edition is available here as a help
Race Walking - The IAAF guide to Judging and Organising Race Walking Events (2016 Edition)

The following presentation is from a 2010 International Race Walking Judges Evaluation Seminar and summarises many of the important points being reinforced for our international judges.

The following short 2 page summary by Jane Saville is found on the Oceania IAAF website - it's a beauty

Following a proposal from the IAAF Race Walking Committee in April 2013 the IAAF Council decided that, starting in 2014, all National Level Race Walk competitions for athletes under 16 be conducted, as much as possible, with some form of “Pit Lane Rule” principally aimed at reducing (if not eliminating altogether) disqualifications. This is now included in the IAAF Guide for racewalking organizers and judges, referenced above.

The following presentation, by former VRWC and international judge Ray Smith, is dated now but does contain some useful information.
Ray Smith: Judging - how it works

I also recommend the USA Track and Field Officials Racewalk Resource Page which has lots of goodies for judges

Finally, here are some articles by former VRWC Club Coach Mark Donahoo (captured here for posterity)
The Rule, Contact and Bent Knees
Combined Rule and Style Details
I have received a caution or red card - why