CHAMPION race walkers from around the country have visited York ahead of a major competition.

Tom Bosworth, the UK’s top men’s 20km race walker was joined by fellow Great Britain and Northern Ireland competitors and coaches at the University of York on Friday to try out the cycle circuit at York Sport Village.

The athletes are currently preparing for the 2014 British Grand Prix of Race Walking which will be held at the venue in June, and is a trial event for the European Athletics Championships.

Andi Drake, head coach at the National Centre for Race Walking, said: “It’s been six years since the UK hosted a European Athletics Permit Race.

The race in York will ensure the top domestic athletes will compete as they can book their team places for Zurich with a first or second place along with a qualifying time.

“A successful event in June will cement our position in the calendar and be a stepping stone to building York into a “must do” race on the European calendar and a regular domestic championship venue.”

Andi said the York event would be a key event for those seeking to make the Zurich Team or the World Junior Athletics Championships Team.

Keith Morris, the university’s head of sport, said: “This is a great opportunity for the team to try out the cycle circuit ahead of June to help their race preparation.

“We are pleased and encouraged that athletes and coaches are excited about the event and look forward to their feedback on our traffic free, floodlit facility.”

What is race walking?

• Unlike running, competitors must keep one foot in contact with the ground at all times.

• Due to the unusual stride, the gait of a walker is similar to that of an Olympic 800m runner, and is often maintained for hours at a time.

• The sport first appeared at the Olympics in 1904 as a half-mile precursor to the decathlon. Women’s race walking was introduced to the Olympics in 1992.

• The current men’s world record for 50km race walking is held by Russia’s Denis Nizhegorodov with a time of 3hrs 34min 14s.

• Cary Grant’s final film appearance was in 1966’s Walk, Don’t Run, which sees him share a flat with a race walker at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.