National Roller Cup

Skate of the Union Keeps Wash. D.C. Rolling

Sept. 9, 2011

Planet report

Skate of the Union inline marathon

Start of the 2010 Skate of the Union inline marathon

Here’s the bad news: more than six inches of rain fell this week on the racecourse for Sunday’s Skate of the Union inline marathon.

Here’s the good news: the racecourse sheds water like a Labrador retriever.

Despite a week of torrential rain, “the track is not flooded,” says Skaters Quest’s Krista Schreffler, the event organizer.

And the forecast looks promising for Sunday: a chance of thunderstorms, but most likely in the afternoon, after the event is over.

This will be the eighth year — though not in a row — for the Skate of the Union.

The event had its origins in the mid-1990s, the gravy days of inline skating when most baby boomers owned a pair of skates.

Back then, it was called the Inline Challenge and, along with racing, included roller hockey and a skate-a-thon. It attracted a big crowd, including top skaters like Derek Parra, Heather Lacayo and Eddy Matzger.

But when inline fizzled, the event was scaled down. In 1999, the organizers renamed it Skate of the Union and made it part of the National Inline Skating Week, a short-lived effort to revive skating.

But to no avail. The event disappeared after two years.

But then, five years later, Schreffler brought it back. A skate instructor based in Washington, D.C., she had started a training program to prepare skaters to compete in inline marathons.

But she had a problem. Washington, D.C. didn’t have a marathon, which limited the number of skaters she could attract to her program.

So she resurrected the Skate of the Union. For the first four years, it was a half marathon. But last year, she stretched it into a full, added chip timing and entered it in the National Roller Cup.

It continues to serve as the goal of students in her Skater’s Quest Fitness Inline Training Program. Graduates of this summer's program will have their graduation ceremony after Sunday’s race.

The Skate of the Union is also a fund raiser, contributing money to Special Olympics Virginia and the R. Marshall Brown Fund in honor of a local skater who died in 2008.

The event is also a big deal for a bunch of inner city kids who are part of the DC-ICE program. “So far, it looks like there will be about 30 kids participating in their first race,” Schreffler says. “Most are doing the 5K, but we are allowing the younger kids to race one lap for experience.”

The racecourse is the Fairfax County Emergency Vehicle Operations Course in Chantilly, VA, a mile south of Washington Dulles International Airport.

One lap is 1.1 miles, or 1.8 km. The full marathon is 24 laps.

The Inline Planet will provide live blog coverage of the race starting at 9 am (EDT) Sunday. (Share your photos, videos and reports on the Skater Network.)

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