One of inline skating's most durable and remarkable records was set in 1998 by Chad Hedrick. Skating on 80mm wheels and with a 12 mph tailwind, the future Olympian won the Northshore Inline Marathon in a time of 57 minutes and 18 seconds.
Hedrick got some help from his two Rollerblade teammates, Derek Downing and Keith Turner, although the truth be told, he provided the pull for most of the race. But nothing can take away from what the then-21-year-old Texan accomplished on that day.
Chad Hedrick (left) and Team Rollerblade (Derek Downing, middle, and Keith Turner) double-push their way to a durable record at the 1998 Northshore.
Photo grab from OLN coverage
In the eight years since, no one has come close to Hedrick's Northshore mark, despite constant improvements in skate technology and larger and faster peletons.
The closest anyone has come is 1 hour, 1 minute and 48 seconds. Frenchman Baptiste Grandgirard posted the time (four and half minutes slower than Hedrick's) when he won the Northshore in 2004.
Last year, after the Northshore dropped out of the World Inline Cup, which stripped the race of the top European skaters, it seemed like Hedrick's mark might stand forever ... or at least for several more years.
But now, with a new $10,000 "bounty" placed on the record, it suddenly seems in jeopardy.
The prize is being offered by sports giant K2, one of Northshore's sponsors. “We are excited to create another wrinkle to this amazing event," the company said in a press release. "Now all we need is a consistent tailwind in Duluth.”
A tailwind would help. But the cash alone may be enough to get the job done.
Already it has attracted the likes of Joey Mantia, the all-around 2006 world champion inline speed skater.
Mantia, 21, plans an assault on the record this year along with Luigino teammates Michael Cheeks and Joshua Wood.
"Hopefully, we'll have good weather and it won't be raining," Mantia said today from the Luigino offices in Olympia, WA.
"It would help to have a tail wind, but we'll have an advantage with the hundred and tens" — 110mm wheels — "and working together as a team, we might be able to do it."
Mantia has won the marathon at the World Championships in each of the last two years and wins most of the marathon he enters.
But he has never skated a full 42K marathon in under an hour. More typically, he finishes in a little over an hour. He won the 2005 marathon at Worlds with a time of 1 hour, 5 minutes and 21 seconds. His time in the rain last year was 1 hour, 9 minutes and 3 seconds.
However, skating to win a marathon is a lot different than trying to set a record. Going for the win usually means hanging with the lead pack and saving as much as possible for the final sprint. On the other hand, shooting for a record means pushing the pace from start to finish.
That's what Chad Hedrick did in Duluth in 1998. He and his two teammates, just back from the World Championships in Spain, which they dominated, toyed with the lead pack at the start of the race. All three of the Team Rollerblade members went out on short fliers.
Then, fifteen minutes after the start, they took off, skating in tight formation and putting on a remarkable display of the power of Hedrick's signature stroke, the double push.
Hedrick set a blistering pace (averaging 27 mph) and led most of the way. Keith Turner, a sprinter, dropped back several miles from the finish. But Hedrick and Downing kept pounding.
At the finish line in Duluth, Hedrick beat Downing in the sprint. Turner finished third, more than two minutes back, but still a minute and a half ahead of the chase pack.
After the race, skate legend Eddy Matzger, who finished fourth (1:01:23), was asked what he thought of Hedrick and Co. "There on another level ... from another planet," he said.
Even if someone manages to beat Hedrick's record, it will remain as one of the great accomplishments of inline skating.
Copyright © 2007 by Robert Burnson