So You Want
To Skate Your First Marathon ...
Legend has it that
2,494 years ago the Greek soldier Phidippides
ran approximately 26 miles from the plain of Marathon to Athens to
alert the city about a great military victory.
Unfortunately, he died just after
delivering his message. While
this story is not deemed historically accurate, it is certainly true
Phidippides would have had an easier time covering that distance today
… on inline skates.
Benefits of Skating a Marathon
Marathons are the
hottest trend sweeping the
inline skating world. New
marathons have been started or are planned in locations as diverse as
Brazil, Nairobi, and Disney World; a new online training program
specific to skating marathons debuted in 2003; and the Berlin Marathon
recently hosted a record 9,612 inline participants.
The vast majority of marathon
participants are regular recreational skaters.
Skating 26.2 miles
(42.2 kilometers), the marathon distance event, is undoubtedly easier
than running it. Roughly
speaking, it takes about half the time to both train for and complete a
skating marathon. As
an example, the world record for a running
marathon is two hours six minutes. Pro inline skaters can sometimes
finish the event in less than one hour.
In addition to the
relative ease of completing a skating marathon, there are a number of
other benefits that might induce you to participate in this trend. Marathons
are a great way to provide motivation and a goal in training. The
events themselves are usually fun-filled weekends offering chances to
mix with other participants from around the globe.
Marathons offer an excellent opportunity
to travel to fun locations. And skating with others is a great way to
watch and improve your technique.
Training for the Marathon
While skating a
marathon is easier than running one, the effort still requires proper
training. In fact, not
training properly is one of the best ways
to get injured either before or during the race.
Following are a few items to consider
when planning your marathon training schedule:
Fitness Level: If you are not currently active, you should
consult your doctor before beginning any type of training program. If you are already
regularly walking, playing tennis, bicycling, skating, or doing some
other form of aerobic exercise you are likely ready to start your
Technique: While many readers of this magazine will be well
prepared to skate a marathon, others might ask themselves if they are
technically skilled enough. Two
simple questions will help here. Can
you brake effectively? Can you skate one mile without difficulty at an
eight mile-per-hour pace (7.5 minutes per mile)? If the answer is “yes”
to both these questions, you are likely ready to start training for a
marathon. Even for
those of you already technically prepared, improving your stride will
pay large dividends over a 26-mile race.
Training Program: Let’s face it: Many skaters could go out
and skate a marathon without any training. However, that might be both
painful and dissatisfying. A training program allows you to mentally
and physically prepare for a marathon to make sure the event is both
safe and fun. How long you will need to train depends in large part on
your goals, your current fitness level, and your skating ability. If you have a reasonable
fitness level, already know how to skate moderately well, and just plan
to finish a skate marathon you should plan on about six weeks to
prepare. If you are
just starting a fitness program, are an absolute skating beginner, or
are shooting for a specific goal (winning your age division, etc) you
should double or triple that estimate.
Components: LSS, Hills, Fartlek: Perhaps the most common
error skaters make when training for a race is not varying the training
schedule. Your body
adapts to whatever requirements you give it.
Even if you are skating 20 miles per day
for four days a week at a moderate pace, this is all you are training
your body to do. By
varying your training schedule, you will prepare your body to deliver
performance in a variety of circumstances.
The Long Slow Skate
(LSS) is the key component of a marathon training schedule. You should plan to do a
LSS once per week at a pace slower than you would normally train. Many
skaters always want to skate fast but by doing this you are only
teaching your body to perform at a high aerobic level.
It is equally important to teach
your body to perform for long periods of time. In this workout you
start at a distance you can currently skate without difficulty and
gradually increase this distance over your training period. For example, an
experienced skater might start a weekly LSS of 20 miles and increase
this five miles per week over an eight-week training program. Remember
to skate slowly!
The word “fartlek”
is Swedish for “speed play”. It is a form of interval training, which
is skating repeated for short distances at a high speed. In Fartlek
training, the distances are varied and the effort level is varied,
making it generally less boring and more effective than standard
interval training. Because
most of us skate on roads or paths and not a track, Fartlek training is
also more applicable than is interval training, which often occurs on a
track. The goals of
Fartlek Training are to condition your body to skate at high speeds and
to increase your fitness level by pushing yourself beyond your normal
aerobic capacity. When
you do a fartlek workout, you start by picking an object ahead of you
such as a tree, house, or telephone pole. This can be anywhere from 100
yards to ¼ mile ahead. Sprint
to that point and then reduce your speed to a LSS pace.
Recover fully and then pick another
object ahead of you at whatever distance you choose.
Your effort should be at about 90%
during the sprint portions of your skate.
component of your training program is a hill workout. Clearly, skating
up and down hills prepares you for any hills you encounter during an
actual race. Additionally,
hills are a great way to increase the intensity of a workout in a
manner similar to fartlek workouts.
In fact, it is possible to alternate
fartlek with hill workouts, doing one each week.
In a hill workout, make sure you
pick a safe hill with clear visibility and a long runout at the bottom.
Start by skating only part way up the hill and then returning back down. If you are comfortable
with this, continue farther up the hill.
Note that you are working out on the
uphill portion and resting on the downhill portion.
If always skating at one pace is the most common error in a training
program, lack of rest is probably the most serious error. Overtraining can lead to
injury and, possibly, keep you from ever reaching the starting line. When planning your rest
consider these things.
You should have one
or two rest days in your weekly training schedule.
This allows your body to recover
from its efforts and gives you a needed mental break from skating. (If you don’t need time to
recover you are likely not working hard enough.)
It is also a good
idea to include cross-training workouts in your training schedule. By participating in a
different activity, you will use different muscles and still ask your
body to perform. Depending
on your needs, you might add in cardio (biking, running, etc) or
non-cardio (weights, yoga) workouts to your schedule.
Finally, you should
plan to “taper” prior to your race by reducing your exercise and
increasing your rest. This
should begin two weeks prior to your race just after your longest LSS;
in other words, you should not skate your longest LSS one week prior to
the race. In
addition, during the final week you should reduce your skating and
other workouts and increase your rest days.
It is still important to exercise
but better to workout for shorter, more intense periods.
with Others (Drafting) Because drafting behind another skater
reduces wind resistance approximately 30%, advanced and pro skaters
spend the entire 26.2-mile marathon in a pace line. Recreational
skaters, who compose the vast majority of marathon participants, almost
invariably skate on their own. Learning
to skate with others in a pace line (after mastering a fitness stride)
is one of the key steps in completing a marathon in a faster time. Simply put, there is no
better way to learn to skate with others than to go do it. Join any inline skating
club and you will find other skaters at your ability level and, better
yet, those more advance than you who can teach you to skate in a pace
At the Event
Once you make it
through the training program, of course, the real event is just
marathons might only have 100 participants and seem manageable to the
first-time marathoner. Other
events will have thousands of skaters and be somewhat daunting.
Following are a few tips for preparing for the actual event.
The Night Before
You should prepare your equipment and clothing the night before: make
sure your skates are in order; decide what clothes you will wear; put
your timing chip on your skates; and pin your race number on your
t-shirt. The more
you prepare the night before, the better you will sleep!
Sunglasses: Think about whether
you will need sunglasses. What time does the sun rise as compared to
when you will start and finish the race? Which direction will you be
skating? Many skaters prefer having sunglasses.
Eat a healthy and carbohydrate-heavy dinner.
Skip or go light on the alcohol. Drink lots of water
because hydrating for the race starts the night before. Consider in
advance whether you will cook or eat out so that you aren’t stuck
running to the store for ingredients.
Organizing Breakfast: Organize your
breakfast the night before. It is best to plan this and purchase the
necessary items the day before rather than winging it the morning of
Alarm Clocks: Set two alarm
clocks. Even if one is enough for you, two will give you peace of mind.
Preparation: Have you ever heard of visualizing your success
in advance? It really works! Think
about your race and how you will do. Visualize yourself as you stride
properly, cruise up the final hill, or strongly cross the finish line.
Eat a good breakfast and perhaps bring along an extra pre-race or
during-the-race snack such as an energy bar.
sure you give yourself enough time so as not to be rushed but not so
much that you end up sitting around for hours waiting for the starting
gun. At large
races, this can be difficult to judge and depends, in part, or your own
Clothes: Remember to bring enough clothes for a possible
early-morning chill. You will be up much earlier than the race actually
starts. Carry your
skates with you to the start line if a baggage service is provided. You
don’t want to be wearing your skates an extra two hours!
& stretching: Give yourself enough time and space for
a short warmup followed by stretching.
At big races with thousands of
skaters, finding a good warmup location can be difficult.
Hydration: Drink water upon
waking and then immediately again before the race starts. Most races
provide water en route but you might consider wearing a hydration pack
or carrying one water bottle.
Bathroom: Try to go to the
bathroom shortly before the race starts so that you don’t have to go
during the race.
Yourself: Take a few minutes just before the race to collect
your thoughts, take a few deep breaths, and think about your upcoming
prepare yourself to do well and your body often follows!
Stretch: You should stretch
after skating to eliminate post-race stiffness as much as possible.
Drink: Most races provide post-race refreshments. Grab something to eat and
drink within the first 10 minutes and then plan on having a meal within
an hour or so of your finish.
Cheer on Others: Consider returning
to the finish line to cheer on other skaters. Get in the spirit!
Day! Most importantly, no matter how you finished, enjoy the
day. In an age of
rampant obesity, you should be proud that you trained for and skated a
About the Author
Allan Wright is the owner of Zephyr Inline Skate
Tours and the organizer of Camp Rollerblade.
He is also the administrator of
MarathonSkating.com, a six-week online training program that is
offering its services for free to participants of several featured
marathons in 2005. For
more information visit: