A Chat With the NorthShore Inline Marathon Man

NorthShore Director Tells You What to Expect in 2004

You betcha this Minnesota guy was willing to be interviewed! ... And talk. You betcha! Whatever you want to talk about? ... Well we want to talk about ... what else! ... the NorthShore Inline Marathon, the top U.S. inline marathon, which is held yearly in Duluth, Minnesota.

The guy, Chuck Carlberg, is the executive director of the race ... has been since Day One. In fact, he was one of the originators of the idea back in 1994, 1995 or thereabouts!

Anyhow. You got to love the Minnesota guys who put together this event. It's the tops. Not only is it the only inline World Cup event in the U.S., but it's the most popular inline marathon in the country. More than 4,000 skaters, mostly recreational, enter the marathon each year.

Here's my interview with Chuck, in which he answers a lot of questions about The Great Race. ... You betcha!

Robert: How is this year's version of the NorthShore Marathon shaping up so far?

Chuck: Currently, we have about 3,200 people registered for the full marathon and 300 registered for the half. ... The numbers are a little bit low so far. But nothing to be concerned about. We expect (by race day) to have about 4,000 for the full marathon and 500 to 600 for the half.

Robert: How does that compare with past years?

Chuck: We've had as many as 4,500 in years past. But the numbers have seemed to level of recently to about 4,000.

Robert: Starting this year, Minnesota has a second big inline marathon: the St. Paul Inline Marathon. Do you expect that to lower participation in the NorthShore marathon?

Chuck: I do not. We see it as Hardy's opening across the street from McDonald's. (laughs) It only increases participation. We build customer bases for each other. And if we do our jobs properly, we will always have a good sized turnout.

Robert: How do you account for the recent popularity of inline marathons?

Chuck: With the millions of people in this country who own skates, we are finding that adults -- not necessarily kids, but adults -- welcome the challenge, welcome the exercise, the training, the regime -- and like having something, like a marathon, as a goal.

A marathon (26.2 miles) is a good length to skate. Just about anyone who does skate, can complete a marathon. And we find that folks, if they are going to travel long-distance for a race, want to skate for more than 10 kilometers. They want a longer race.

Robert: The World Cup racers make up only a small proportion of the skaters in the NorthShore Marathon. Who else participates?

Chuck: Our average customer is a recreational skater. ... The World Cup racers and the advanced skaters: Any race is going to have those. But 85-90 percent of skaters are recreational skaters. They are there for the "I Did It" button; they are there for a personal best of some sort.

The average age of the skaters is 37. For the most part, it's split almost equally between men and women, with a few more men.

They come from all regions. Last year we had 14 countries and 42 states represented. They come because they know there are going to be other like-minded people skating here. ... And since we have a three-day event, they can base little mini-vacations around the marathon.

Robert: What happens during the weekend of the race?

Chuck: Well, on the opening day, which is Friday, we start at noon with the Industry Expo. We have all the skate manufacturers -- plus all the local vendors are here -- to show new product and to visit and chat with customers.

Then in the early afternoon we have a children's event (the Kids Spring), free to all children. In the evening, we have a free skate through the city, which is a typical Friday night skate around any city in the world, police-escorted. Duluth is a beautiful city to skate through.

Of course, the race starts on Saturday morning. Directly after the race, the expo is still going on, and then we have a very large award ceremony. We give away over $30,000 in cash and prizes.

And thereafter, there are parties going on everywhere; the restaurants are all full; and people are around town wearing their skate shirts. And then there is a large outdoor music festival on the waterfront that evening.

Then the following morning (Sunday) we have kind of a little coffee-and-donuts skate sponsored by Bont. Then people can just do a casual skate around the Canal Park area just to loosen up the muscles and get moving again.

There's something to do all three days. And of course, every single person involved in the skate industry is here. And people know that. ... You will see all the top racers in the world. Eddy Matzger, Chad Hedrick. ... Everybody is here. And it's lots of fun to get to talk to everybody.

(This guy's pretty good, yeah? ... Read Part ll of the interview here.)

Suggested Reading:

The NorthShore Inline Marathon


Copyright 2006 by Robert Burnson

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