Citius Mag Podcast: Olympian John Nunn on race walking, earning respect, Russian doping and growing the sport
The race walk isn’t the sexiest part of track and field but Olympian John Nunn acknowledges that. For this week’s Citius Mag Podcast, the three-time U.S. Olympian joined the show to spread some knowledge on how does someone go from running into walking, and the perception of doing so.
Nunn touches on more topics like the loneliness of the race walker, Russian doping, free Olympic team spots and much more.
Check out the latest episode of the Citius Mag Podcast on Soundcloud below.
John Nunn on how he earned the respect of his USATF teammates and a friendship with English Gardner:
“One of the most interesting situations that happened was with English Gardner. She and I are great friends now, which is so odd that there’s this age gap and she’s this incredible 100 meter sprinter. Here I am as this 50-kilometer race walker. We can hang out the whole night and have a blast together. But it started in Lindt, Austria prior to the 2013 World Championships in Moscow. We were there for two weeks or 10 days doing a training camp and there was a concentration camp just outside of Lindt. It was roughly 30 to 35 kilometers away. I had worked with the coaches. Randy Wilber is a physiologist with the USOC and he was there too. The coach Troy Engle, Randy and I decided that I was going to walk out to the concentration camp. I had a long workout so I might as well walk out there and they would bike.
I walked the whole way. I got to 30K and then hopped on one of their bikes with them and we got out to the concentration camp just a couple kilometers away. I had such a moving experience that when I got back – it took the whole day getting back with trains and buses. Things were down. – to the hotel. I started talking with the USATF staff and said, ‘I know we’re leaving Monday but tomorrow would be a great opportunity for every athlete to go experience a concentration camp because it was so emotionally moving and part of a world history that we don’t have here in the U.S. So they set up these buses and virtually everyone went on this trip. You didn’t have to go but there were three or four who stayed back. Some of them were people who had already been to concentration camps before and it was one and done. ‘I’ve seen it. I don’t want to experience it again. It was horrible but it was worth seeing.’
The whole way out, the athletes started talking to each other on the buses and they were asking ‘How did we find out about this?’ and ‘Why are we all going?’ Someone said that John Nunn walked out here yesterday. They proceeded to not think much of it until it took them like 30 to 40 minutes into the bus ride out. Someone, I think it was English, said, ‘No. No. No. He walked out here?! Like we’re still driving.’ They got there and they were dumbfounded by how long it took them to get there by car and the idea that yesterday morning, I walked the whole way out there.
English finds me that night and I didn’t know her. She corners me and was like ‘You did not walk out there.’ And I go, ‘I did!’
She goes, ‘No, no. That’s not humanly possible.’
So we had this long conversation and she asked for me to explain to her what I do. I started telling her about the form and the technique and she goes, ‘No. This doesn’t work this way. No one walks that far.’ I did.
They ended up paying attention and watching. The Moscow race went horribly for me. I cramped up. I finished. They had to cut the uniform off of me and leave me under the stadium with an IV for two hours. Here they had seen me train. They had gone out to the concentration camp, saw the race evolve and within a day I think I gained a lot of people’s respect.
We get it. You’re welcome to make fun of race walking because it’s silly-looking but this is one of the most brutal events and that’s what I was hearing from quite a few. ‘We’ve never seen somebody put their body through this type of torture and then come out of it on the back end and go, ‘Give me a couple months and we’ll go do another one. Life doesn’t work this way.’ Well, I’ve made good teams with it and I’ve had good experiences with it.”