Inline still a prized eventThe NorthShore Inline Marathon is healthy at age 15. Yes, the boom years of the skate sport were in the 1990s and many events have since fallen away, but the 26.2-mile race along the North Shore remains the largest in North America.
By: Forum Newspapers, Lake County News Chronicle
The NorthShore Inline Marathon is healthy at age 15.
Yes, the boom years of the skate sport were in the 1990s and many events have since fallen away, but the 26.2-mile race along the North Shore remains the largest in North America.
The 15th race takes place Saturday, beginning in Two Harbors and ending in Duluth’s Canal Park.
Approximately 3,000 entrants are expected for Saturday’s marathon (2,600) and accompanying half-mara-thon (400), about a 9 percent drop from last year’s totals of 2,776 in the mara-thon and 398 in the half-marathon (3,174).
“The NorthShore was the first inline marathon in the country and it caught the imagination of skaters. It immediately became the largest outdoor skate race in the United States at any distance,” said Robert Burnson of Pleasant Hill, Calif., the founder, editor and publisher of Inline Planet, the only notable online source of inline skate news. “Skaters are very loyal to the race and it has the most competitive field of entrants, in every division, outside of Europe.”
Texan Chad Hedrick gave the race a huge shot in the arm with a winning time of 57 minutes, 18 seconds in 1998, the third year of the event. The performance was ranked as an American record that still stands.
Colombia’s Julian Rivera recorded the fastest time on the course since 1998 last year in 59:35 to continue the race’s stature, averaging 26.4 mph on the route.
Kara Peterson of St. Paul was the top elite woman finisher in 1:18:20.
Despite the drop in entries this season, first-year executive director Rick Abrahamson, who followed Tara Alfonsi in the position, believes the NorthShore race is holding its own.
“We’re healthy, we’re comfortable and we have the support of the skaters. A lot of them still see our race as the ‘must do’ race each year,” said Abrahamson, who has been on the event’s board of directors since 1999 and has skated in every marathon. “We still typically get 500-600 new entrants every year and our challenge is to get their attention and keep their attention.”
There are no North American challengers for race size or star quality. The Chicagoland Inline Marathon, which bills itself as America’s second-largest 26.2-mile race, had 149 finishers July 25. There were 72 in an accompanying half-marathon. The Minnesota Half-Marathon, on Aug. 7 in St. Paul, had 577 finishers.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Berlin Inline Marathon had 7,500 entrants in 2009.
The NorthShore Inline Marathon had a race-record 4,230 entries in 2001 before facing eroding numbers. A half-marathon was added in 2004 and Al Goodman, chair of the race board of directors, says it’s possible a running half-marathon could be added to future race schedules. The combined races have an annual budget of about $300,000, Goodman said.
“We won’t overshadow our inline races, but a half-marathon (run) is something the board has talked about,” said Goodman, the Lake County highway engineer. “We’re also investigating a foundation that will promote inline skating locally and nationally, because we believe in physical fitness and giving back to the sport. We want to see the sport expand.”
Inline skating, according to a 2007 report by the Sporting Goods Manufacturer’s Association, was the most popular “extreme” sport nationally. There were 10.8 million Americans, over the age of 6, who skated at least once a year, putting the sport ahead of skateboarding and mountain biking.
Closures should be expected from about 5-10:30 a.m. for the northern portion of the inline course and from about 6:30 a.m. to noon for the southern portion. Closures include:
- At 5 a.m., southbound Scenic Highway 61 will be closed at Two Harbors.
- At 5:30 a.m., northbound Scenic Highway 61 will be closed near Brighton Beach.
- Alseth, McQuade, Ryan, Homestead and Lakewood roads will be closed at their lakeside ends.
- At 6:45 a.m., southbound traffic on the Highway 61 expressway will be diverted onto Superior Street.
- London Road will be closed from 61st to 26th avenues east, but will remain open west of 26th Avenue East for local business and residential traffic.
- Northbound Interstate 35 will be closed at Lake Avenue and Fifth Avenue West during the race.
- Southbound Interstate 35 will be closed at 26th and 21st avenues east.
- Harbor Drive will be closed from the Great Lakes Aquarium to the William A. Irvin ore boat.
- The DECC parking lot and the Great Lakes Aquarium will remain open during the race with access on Railroad Street.
- The Fifth Avenue West bridge over I-35 will be closed during the race.
- Canal Park is accessible at Lake Avenue.
NorthShore Inline Marathon
- Saturday from south of Two Harbors to Duluth along Scenic North Shore Drive and I-35.
- Starts at 6:45 a.m. for half-marathon, 7:30 a.m. for marathon.
- Finishes alongside William A. Irvin ore boat on Harbor Drive.
- About 3,000 skaters are expected, 2,600 in marathon and 400 in half-marathon.
- Prize money is $10,400 purse with $1,000 to winning man and woman
- Entries closed online but being taken in person noon to 8 p.m. today at the DECC’s Pioneer Hall.