The Chicagoland Inline Marathon becomes the Get Fit America Sports Festival.
If the inline world had an annual award for innovation, one of the top contenders this year would be the Chicagoland Inline Marathon.
The organizers are giving the 3-year-old event an extreme makeover, transforming it into a multi-sport extravaganza that includes cheer squads, bike blasts, criteriums and a 4-race "Inline Tour."
"We think that in terms of growth, this is an inline revolution," said event coordinator Peter Starykowicz of All Community Events.
Calling it a "revolution" may be over the top, but Starykowicz and his Rainbo teammates are breaking new ground this year in an effort to grow their event.
Back in the '90s, at the height of the inline craze, it was relatively easy to attract a sufficient number of skaters to events to at least break even. But in recent years, as skater numbers dwindled, event organizers have struggled to keep their events alive.
The Chicagoland Inline Marathon has for the most part bucked the trend. It attracted a modest crowd of 120 skaters its first year (2007). Then last year, it grew to 338 skaters with the addition of sprint races, an expo and NROC membership.
Its numbers are bound to grow this year with the addition of runners, cyclists and walkers — not to mention several new events for skaters.
The Chicagoland Inline Marathon will still be part of the mix. But this year, it will be the finale event of the 3-day Get Fit America Sports Festival (July 24-26).
The weekend includes some 20 separate events (for skaters, runners, cyclists and walkers) and a multi-sport expo, called the Fitness, Health and Athletic Fair.
The addition of running and cycling doesn't appear to be altering the inline focus. The centerpiece of the weekend is the four race "Pro Inline Tour," which starts Friday night with a 300-meter dash, continues Saturday with a 2-mile time trial and 10K criterium, and concludes Sunday with the marathon. (There is also a 10K and half marathon for less competitive skaters.)
Starykowicz, a 23-year-old skater from Long Grove, IL, said the idea behind the redesign is to draw a wide variety of fitness enthusiasts to the event. "It's all about getting everybody involved ... from kids to walkers, from first-time skaters all the way up to the pros," he said.
Participants in the various fitness events will compete — not for age-group placements, but for gold, silver and bronze medals that will be awarded to those who finish within age-based par times.
The organizers also plan to encourage spectators and the public to attend the event by televising a 30-minute promotional video and by stationing cheer squads and bands along the course at one-mile intervals.
Corporate sponsors apparently like what they are hearing about the event. Starykowicz said he expects to announce two large corporate sponsors in the next few weeks.
"The Number One reason we are able to get sponsors is our approach," he said. "We are not just a speed skating event; we are really about getting the community involved."
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