Loss of Event Will Be a Blow to Long Distance Skaters
The organizing committee of the Athens to Atlanta Road Skate announced today that it has canceled this year's event but hopes to bring it back in 2006.
"We simply have too few people registered and not enough funds to be able to afford to produce such a complex event," the organizers said in an email announcement.
"This is an important event to us and the skating community at large. We want to keep it alive.
"To do so we need to regroup, rethink and revise this event to make it more viable and ensure its success in the future."
This year would have marked the 24th year for the event, which bills itself as the world's longest running point-to-point road skate.
The 87-mile event began life in 1982 as a rolling pub crawl and matured into one of the top ultra-marathons in the world.
Scott Jones, a member of the organizing committee, said registration was down by a third this year and down by half over two years.
"We simply can't meet basic expenses under these circumstances," he told the Planet.
"It would take $20,000 in the next three weeks to save the event, and I don't know where to go for that sort of money on short notice."
Jones said the a2a organizing committee voted to cancel the event on Monday and since then has been struggling with the wording of the official explanation.
The announcement is being mailed to all the 100 or so skaters who signed up for the event. Full refunds will be provided.
"It will come back," said Eddy Matzger, who has won the a2a a record eight times, including each of the last three years. "But I'm disappointed, for sure.
"I would have sold my house to bail it out if I could have done it fast enough."
Last year, the event drew 353 skaters: 202 for the full distance, 72 for the double marathon (52 miles); and 79 for the half distance (38 miles).
At its peak, in the late 1990s, the event was drawing nearly 800 skaters a year. Its peak year was 1998 when 790 skaters competed.
Team in Training Bails
The organizers said one thing that hurt the event this year was the pull out by the Leukemia Foundation's Team in Training program.
The program trained skaters who wanted to participate in the event.
Kim Perkins, a former member of the organizing committee, said the event has found it difficult to attract new blood.
The mature road skaters return to the event year after year, but young skaters have not been signing up, said Perkins, who has won the women's event three years running.
This year's event had been scheduled for Oct. 9th.
Its cancellation may come as good news for the organizers of the New York 100K, another ulta-marathon in danger of being dropped this year.
They are looking for a new date for their event, after being unable to lock in a September time slot in Brooklyn's Prospect Park.
With the a2a canceled, the Oct. 9th date is now open.
(posted on Aug. 6, 2005)
Copyright © 2005 by Robert Burnson
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