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Walking -- Fast -- Toward an Olympic Dream

U.S. race walker Curt Clausen, 36, during a recent workout at the Chula Vista Marina south of San Diego, Calif. Clausen will compete for the U.S. team in the 50-kilometer walk at the Athens Olympics this summer.
Tom Goldman, NPR
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U.S. race walker Curt Clausen, 36, during a recent workout at the Chula Vista Marina south of San Diego, Calif. Clausen will compete for the U.S. team in the 50-kilometer walk at the Athens Olympics this summer.

This summer in Athens, Olympic competition will end, as usual, with the men's marathon, a 26-mile race many consider the most grueling event of the Games.

Race walkers, however, would disagree with that assessment. The 50-kilometer walk, in fact, is the longest foot race in the Olympics. But instead of respect, most race walkers get ridiculed for competing in what's often called a weird-looking sport.

As part of an occasional series on the upcoming Summer Games, NPR's Tom Goldman profiles Curt Clausen, America's best long-distance race walker -- an athlete who's honed his patience in a sport that pushes him to move as fast as he can without breaking into a run.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.