This film is part of Free

Walking Race

Participants come in all shapes and sizes to pound the streets of York and beguile the crowds with an eclectic range of pedestrianistic styles.

Amateur film 1938 6 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for Yorkshire Film Archive


A big turnout of both participants and onlookers for a highly competitive walking race in York in the 1930s. A sport for the common people – any age, any kit, anywhere and it costs nothing – that at one time was the most popular sport in England. With the determination seen here on the faces of the pedestrious contestants, going "fair heel and toe", it is no wonder that it inspired so much enthusiasm.

Although race walking, “pedestrianism”, dates back in England to the eighteenth century, it wasn’t until 1866 that the first Amateur Walking Championship took place, and were included in the first A.A.A. Championships in 1880. It was included as an event in the Intercalated Olympic Games of 1906 and the London Olympic Games of 1908, won by a Brighton policeman. The first Women’s Amateur Athletic Association track championship was held in 1923 (although women’s walking was not included in the Olympic Games until 1992). Note that some of the participants don’t seem to be adhering to the basic rules of continuous contact with the ground and straightness of the knee of the advancing leg.