Stephen King: The Long Walk: Rules

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The Definitive Guide to the Rules of The Long Walk

The actual rules are more complicated than most people realize

The book emphasizes warnings, but it's really about the 2-minute timer.

Most males in the country from age thirteenExcerpt: most of the kids in the country over twelve take the tests but only one in fifty passes. to eighteenExcerpt: Why don't you just get up off your fat ass and go to it with us? But the milkman was past eighteen. , apply for The Long Walk.
One in fifty pass the physical test, mental test, and essay testExcerpt: most of the kids in the country over twelve take the tests but only one in fifty passes. , and are entered into the national lottery Excerpt:
Sure, they draw the names out of that cock-sucking drum. Big TV spectacular.
Yeah. The Major draws the two hundred names, but the names're all they announce.
You don't know if you're a Walker or just a backup.
And no notification of which you are until the final backout date itself.
.
Two hundred are chosen on a televised lottery Excerpt:
Sure, they draw the names out of that cock-sucking drum. Big TV spectacular.
Yeah. The Major draws the two hundred names, but the names're all they announce.
You don't know if you're a Walker or just a backup.
And no notification of which you are until the final backout date itself.
.
One-hundred Prime-Walkers and one-hundred Backups Excerpt:
Sure, they draw the names out of that cock-sucking drum. Big TV spectacular.
Yeah. The Major draws the two hundred names, but the names're all they announce.
You don't know if you're a Walker or just a backup.
And no notification of which you are until the final backout date itself.

They are not told which they are until the last backout date the morning of April 31 Excerpts:
And no notification of which you are until the final backout date itself.
No one tried to talk you into using the April 31st blackout?
.
They can call an 800 number Excerpt:
After a while she knew I couldn't say Yes, okay, I'll call the 800 number.
to backout on April 15 Excerpt:
I let the April 15th backout date go by
, the first of two backout dates, but they won't know if they would have been a Backup or Prime-Walker.
They are called on the morning of April 31 Excerpts:
Jan said she'd go all the way with me, any time, any way, as often as I wanted if I'd take the April 31st backout.
and 100 are told they are Backups and 100 are told they are Prime-Walkers.
If they decide to backout, they must call the 800 number before midnight May 1st.
When a Backup backs-out, nothing happens.
When a Prime Walker backs out, a backup is called Excerpt:
Twelve of the original Walkers used the April 31st backout. I was number twelve, backup. I got the call just past 11 PM four days ago.
to replace them.
A Backup who replaces a Prime-Walker still has the option to backout.
Backups and Prime-Walkers can backout on April 31 Excerpt:
Jan said she'd go all the way with me, any time, any way, as often as I wanted if I'd take the April 31st backout.
, the second and last backout date.
When a prime-walker backs out, a backup takes their place. The book is not clear on how they decide which backup to choose.
I assume a backup is chosen at random, but they might go in the order they were chosen from the lottery.
The next day, on May 1 Excerpt:
I got the call just past 11 PM
When the call came, I had just ten hours.
At twenty minutes of ten on that endless May first
, all Prime-Walkers and Backups that have not backed out, show up to the start by 8:00 am.
If they do not backout by midnight May 1, and are not on the lineup when it starts at 9:00 am, they get squaded Excerpt: But they Squad them just as fast for trying to back out of a Long Walk , regardless if they are a Backup or Prime-Walker.
Garraty implies to his mom that if you try to backout after the last backout date, she knows what would happen Excerpt:
Mom: They'd understand, I know they would. The Major-
Garraty: The Major would-
You know what the Major would do, Mom.
(Garraty would get squaded).
The Prime-Walkers are assigned numbers from 1 to 100 alphabetically by surname Excerpts:
When I call your name, please step forward and take your number.
Then go back to your place until it is time to begin. Do this smartly, please.
Aaronson / took his large plastic 1.
It was Abraham, 2.
Baker, Arthur / pressed his number 3 onto the right breast of his shirt.
5 looked insulted. I'm Gary Barkovitch
Davidson, 8
Garraty: number 47
Peter McVries was 61.
Hank Olson was 70.
Scramm, 85
Stebbins was 88.
A boy named Tressler, 92
Number 100 / His name was Zuck.
.
We learn that McVries #61 was backup 12. The reason his surname falls alphabetically between Larson #60 and Olson #70
is because the walkers numbers are not assigned until the day of the walk, once they know who is actually in the walk.
The backups who did not replace prime-walkers can leave once roll-call is done Excerpt:
It went on until 8:40, and it came out right. No one had ducked out. Back in the parking lot, engines started and a number of cars began pulling out-boys from the backup list who would now go home and watch the Long Walk coverage on TV.
.
The walk begins at 9:00 AM Excerpts:
Garraty's watch said 9:00, but the poised hand did not fall.
Then he remembered that his watch was a minute fast
The Major's fingers dropped. "Luck to all,"
at the border between America and Canada Excerpt: The road was just ahead and the simple stone post that marked the border between America and Canada. .
The starting city in America is not defined, but I'm guessing it's Hamlin Maine, because that border is on land,
unlike the next closest in Van Buren Maine, which is in the center of the St. John River.
One or more halftracks with soldiers Excerpts:
a strange, tread-equipped vehicle that moved much more slowly.
There were toy-sized radar dishes mounted on the front and back of this halftrack.
Two soldiers lounged on its upper deck. They were carrying army-type heavy-caliber carbine rifles.
He glanced down at the solid-state computer on his waist, a gadget that included a tiny but sophisticated sonar device.
Garraty had once read an article about them in Popular Mechanix.
They could read out a single Walker's speed as exactly as you would have wanted,
to four numbers to the right of the decimal point.
The tiny radar dishes turned busily, monitoring each Walker's speed with a sophisticated on-board computer.
, rides along with the boys, measuring their speed with radar-dishes and sonar-devices Excerpts:
a strange, tread-equipped vehicle that moved much more slowly.
There were toy-sized radar dishes mounted on the front and back of this halftrack.
Two soldiers lounged on its upper deck. They were carrying army-type heavy-caliber carbine rifles.
He glanced down at the solid-state computer on his waist, a gadget that included a tiny but sophisticated sonar device.
Garraty had once read an article about them in Popular Mechanix.
They could read out a single Walker's speed as exactly as you would have wanted,
to four numbers to the right of the decimal point.
The tiny radar dishes turned busily, monitoring each Walker's speed with a sophisticated on-board computer.
.
Each boy has a timer that is maintained by a computer-console Excerpt:
They continued to scan the Walkers with their blank eyes, referring occasionally to their computerized console.
The tiny radar dishes turned busily, monitoring each Walker's speed with a sophisticated on-board computer.
in the halftracks.
The timer is initialized to two minutes Excerpts that mention the two-minute timer (although the word timer is never used):
Even when you're walking with no warnings, there's only two minutes between you and the inside of a cemetery fence.
Kid was so scared he just froze up at nine o'clock. Just couldn't move. He took his three warnings and then at 9:02 AM they gave him his ticket.
He was being second-warned, but of course he was beyond hearing, and when his two minutes were up they shot him like a dog.
Two minutes you'll have to see her, unless you should miss her in the crowd
, and counts down Excerpt:
The blond soldier with the remotely handsome face put away the pocket chronometer. His lips moved soundlessly as he counted down the last few seconds.
when the walker's speed drops below four miles per hour Excerpt:
Low speed cutoff was exactly four miles an hour.
in the correct direction Excerpt:
Several of the Walkers, Abraham and Collie Parker among them, broke for the shoulder at a dogtrot. All were warned. They were doing better than four an hour, but they were doing it in the wrong direction.
.
The loudhailer on the halftrack announces a warning which includes the walkers number, if a walker's timer reaches one of three thresholds.
Timer counts down to 90 seconds, they will hear "Warning! Warning 47!" Excerpt:
"Warning! Warning 47!"
Time. Time was speeding up for him

Timer counts down to 60 seconds, they will hear "Warning! Warning 47! Second warning, 47!" Excerpt:
Time. Time was speeding up for him
my second warning's coming up
"Warning! Second warning, 47!"

Timer counts down to 30 seconds, they will hear "Warning! Warning 47! Third warning, 47!" Excerpt:
His silver chronometer was in one hand, his rifle in the other.
"Warning! Warning 47! Third warning, 47!"
The last few seconds began to drain away.
The finger of the soldier tightened on the trigger and whitened.
He glanced down at the solid-state computer on his waist
His lips moved soundlessly as he counted down the last few seconds.

Timer is under 15 seconds and walker speed in the correct direction is under 4 mph, the soldier(s) will lower their carbine(s) from high port and aim them at the target walker. Excerpt:
The carbines came slowly down from high port and found Harkness.

Timer is under 15 seconds and walker speed in the correct direction was under 4 mph, but is now 4 mph or faster, the soldier(s) will raise their carbine(s) to high port. Excerpt:
The guns went back up, then down, then slowly back up to high port.

If a walker's timer reaches 0 Excerpt:
His lips moved soundlessly as he counted down the last few seconds.
For the next hour he would be less than two seconds from death.
, they are given a ticket Excerpt:
they gave him his ticket after thirty seconds because he was walking with three.
.

Type of warnings:

There are two types of warnings. The first type already mentioned is a courtesy-warning to let the walker know that their timer is counting down.
The second type of warning is a penalty-warning Excerpt:
Rank took a swing at him—something expressly forbidden by the rules—and was warned for it.
for breaking a rule.
A penalty-warning causes the walker's timer to instantly drop Excerpt:
Rank suddenly turned around and charged Barkovitch
He was given a third warning.
to the next warning-threshold or ticket.

Examples:

  • If their timer is at 120 (no warnings), it drops to 90 (first warning)
  • If their timer is at 91 (no warnings), it drops to 90 (first warning)
  • If their timer is at 90 (have first warning), it drops to 60 (second warning)
  • If their timer is at 61 (have first warning), it drops to 60 (second warning)
  • If their timer is at 60 (have second warning), it drops to 30 (third warning)
  • If their timer is at 31 (have second warning), it drops to 30 (third warning)
  • If their timer is at 30 (have third warning), it drops to 0 (ticket)
  • If their timer is at 1 (have third warning), it drops to 0 (ticket)
Examples of rules that will cause a penalty-warning:
  • Interfering with another walker Excerpt:
    Rank threw another punch. Barkovitch nimbly stepped around it,
    but tripped over the boy walking next to him. They were both warned by the soldiers
    causing their speed to drop below four miles per hour
  • Walking in the opposite direction as the correct direction Excerpt:
    Several of the Walkers, Abraham and Collie Parker among them, broke for the shoulder at a dogtrot. All were warned. They were doing better than four an hour, but they were doing it in the wrong direction.
  • Throwing harmless objects Excerpt:
    Garraty wandered off by himself to the far side of the road, waving now and then to someone, but not bothering as a rule.
    at soldiers, police, officials, spectators, or walkers, with the intent to harm
    • frisbee
    • hat
    • concentrate tube Excerpt:
      McVries mopped the last of the chicken concentrate out of the tube and then cast the empty aside. A teenager in pegged jeans raced a middle-aged housewife for McVries's empty tube, which had stopped being something useful and had begun its new career as a souvenir.
    • shoe Excerpt:
      He knelt, took his warning, untied it, and took it off. He considered throwing it to the crowd and then left it lying on the road instead.
    • sock
    • foodbelt
    • pants belt
    • clothing
    • empty can
  • Attempting to climb onto the halftrack Excerpt:
    He was trying to scale the side, and one of the soldiers brought the butt of his carbine down on his hands.
    , Jeep or other vehicle to get a free-ride
  • Touching the weapon Excerpt:
    Garraty touched the carbine slung over the soldier's back.
    He did it furtively. But McVries saw him.
    of an official like The Major, a soldier, etc.
  • Accepting aid Excerpt:
    Others were third-warned for stopping to pick up chunks of watermelon
    from anyone but a fellow walker

Examples of actions that will NOT yield a penalty-warning:

  • Throwing objects to soldiers, police, officials, spectators, or walkers without the intent to harm Excerpt:
    He knelt, took his warning, untied it, and took it off. He considered throwing it to the crowd and then left it lying on the road instead.
  • Walking perpendicular to the center-line toward the shoulder
  • Stopping
  • Sitting
  • Verbal insults to soldiers Excerpt:
    McVries halted, halted dead, and raised his fists at them, shaking them above his head like a mad conductor.
    "Come on down here! Put down those rifles and come on down here! I'll show you what's funny!"
    , walkers, or spectators
  • Obscene gestures Excerpt:
    policemen were holding up traffic as the Walkers passed. They saluted each Walker, and a couple of the boys, secure in their immunity, thumbed their noses.
    to soldiers, police, officials, walkers, or spectators
  • Verbally trying to pick a fight Excerpt:
    McVries halted, halted dead, and raised his fists at them, shaking them above his head like a mad conductor.
    "Come on down here! Put down those rifles and come on down here! I'll show you what's funny!"
    with soldiers, police, officials, walkers, or spectators
  • Nudity, exposing genitals, exposing anus Excerpt:
    He nervously unbuckled his belt, paused, then, grimacing,
    shoved his pants down with one hand held protectively
    across his genitals, and squatted.
    I see it! I see his thing!
  • Public urination Excerpt:
    Garraty turned around and urinated.
  • Public bowl movements Excerpt:
    Baker cut past him suddenly, looked around for spectators, saw none, dropped his britches and squatted. Fastest crap I evah took!
  • Spitting Excerpt:
    McVries broke into a run, caught up with the halftrack, stopped, and spat on the side of it. The spittle cut a clean streak through the dust on the side of the halftrack.
  • Slapping Excerpt:
    McVries slapped him twice quickly, forehand on the right cheek, backhand on the left. Then he walked away quickly, not looking back.
    , pushing, shoving Excerpt:
    Garraty put out his hands and gave McVries a hard, flat shove.
    "You're going to get shot, you asshole."
    , poking Excerpt:
    An elbow poked him rudely in the ribs. "That's you, boy. Rise and shine." McVries was grinning at him.
    a walker in a friendly manner to encourage them to walk, if they are stopped or walking below four miles per hour
  • Accepting aid from a fellow walker including food and drink.
    Example: Although walkers got penalty-warnings for walking in the wrong direction Excerpt:
    Several of the Walkers, Abraham and Collie Parker among them, broke for the shoulder at a dogtrot. All were warned. They were doing better than four an hour, but they were doing it in the wrong direction.
    and accepting aid from a spectator Excerpt:
    Others were third-warned for stopping to pick up chunks of watermelon
    ,
    they did not get warned for sharing those watermelon Excerpt:
    He threw half of it over to Garraty, who almost fumbled it in his surprise.
    slices with each other Excerpt:
    He only let himself eat half. "Pete!" he shouted, and tossed the remaining chunk to him.
A walker gets one warning removed for every hour Excerpt:
you walk an hour without getting a fresh warning, you lose one of the old ones.
they do not get a warning since their last warning.

Examples:

If they have 3 warnings, their timer is reset 60, which is equivalent to 2 warnings Excerpt:
He lost one of his three warnings and gained it back five minutes later.
.
If they have 2 warnings, their timer is reset to 90, which is equivalent to 1 warning.
If they have 1 warning, their timer is reset to 120, which is equivalent to 0 warnings.
If they have 0 warnings, their timer is reset to 120, if their timer was less than 120.

NOTE: The book is not clear on what happens to their 2-minute timer when they lose a warning.
One possibility is that they get 30 seconds added to their timer up to 120 seconds, but I don't think this is the case because of this exceprt.
But if you had three warnings and could manage to walk for three hours, you were back in the sun again.
I interpret the expression back in the sun again as meaning they have 30 seconds to get that warning back.
IF they only gained 30 seconds when their timer was 1, their timer would be 31 when they lost their 3rd warning, and they'd be 1 second from their 3rd warning again.
That IS NOT back in the sun again

Examples of actions that will result in an instant-ticket

  • Walking off the road Excerpt:
    There were no warnings. Percy had forfeited his right to them when his right foot passed over the verge of the shoulder.
    . The shoulder is considered part of the road. A median between lanes is considered part of the road.
  • Physical aggression Excerpt:
    One of the soldiers had fallen off and lay staring up at the sky with empty, expressionless eyes. There was a neat blue hole surrounded by a corona of powder burns in the center of his forehead.
    toward any official (The Major, soldier, etc.) or spectator. This can include ...
    Throwing harmful objects which can cause injury like a ...
    • water canteen
    • bottle
    • brick
    • rock
    • can full of liquid
    • any heavy or sharp object on your person or found on the road
  • Punching, kicking, biting, charging, ramming, tackling an official or spectator
  • Attempting to remove a weapon Excerpt:
    Olson grabbed the barrel of the closest and yanked it out of the hands that held it as if it had been an ice-cream stick.
    from an official
Bodily contactExcerpt: I know what the rules say. Bodily contact with anyone I wish, as long as I don't leave the road. is allowed with anyone you want as long as you interact with them on the shoulder. Spectators are not allowed beyond the shoulder. In crowded areas, the crowd is held back with things like police-tape, police barricades, plastic traffic barriers, cement barriers, etc.

Date Created November 10, 2018
Last Updated February 28, 2021
Contact: patcoston@gmail.com