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Extreme Makeover Draws a Crowd for Island Marathon

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By Planet Staff
June 17, 2010

Apostle Islands Inline Marathon logo

Apostle Islands Inline Marathon, June 19, 2010

The organizers of the Big Granite Inline Marathon in Ashland, WI, have struggled in recent years with declining turnout. Things hit rock bottom last year when only 86 skaters showed up.

But this year, the organizers fought back with an extreme makeover. First, they moved the marathon away from the scary hills of Big Granite to the scenic flats of Madeline Island. Then they renamed the event the Apostle Islands Inline Marathon, in honor of the chain of islands it inhabits. Finally, they signed up as a Class A event in the 2010 National Roller Cup.

The results have been dramatic: With two days to go before Saturday's race, 201 skaters have already registered.

“This is great,” said lead organizer Mary McPhetridge of the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce.

The race is attracting mostly Midwest skaters, among them pros like Mike Anderson, Tom and Kara Peterson, Sarah Oftedahl, James Kauth, Martha Flynn-Kauth, Jeff Terwilliger and David Swan.

But some skaters are coming from farther afield, including Randy Plett from Winnipeg; Brian Oswald from Manassas, VA; and Hernan Diaz from Shawnee, KS.

The island is a big asset for the marathon, said Adams Inline’s Adam Bradley. “It’s got two great campgrounds and an awesome beach so it’s a great place to spend a weekend.”

It’s also a place where you can rent a bike or moped and enjoy the Lake Superior scenery.

The locals are getting in on the action, McPhetridge said. Local hangout Tommy’s Burnt Down Cafe plans to open early Saturday and offer post-race Bloody Marys.

The inline marathon starts at 8:30 a.m. CDT. The event also includes a half marathon and fun race.

Skaters arriving Saturday morning should take care to give themselves enough time to reach the island via the ferry. (Ferry schedule.)

Full marathoners skate three loops of a 8.7-mile road course that features smooth pavement, lake views and two hairpin turns (slow down!).

The weather is uncertain. Most forecasters are calling for partly cloudy skies with temps in the high-60s. But Accuweather says to expect a couple of showers.

Rain or shine, NROC skaters will earn Class A points in the full marathon.

The Inline Planet will provide live blog coverage starting at 8 a.m. CDT.

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