Lake Placid boasts a rich Olympic history, particularly in speed skating. In 1932 Jack Shea, a Lake Placid native, won the 500 and 1500 meter events. Another local athlete, Charles Jewtraw, trained on the oval, becoming the first gold medalist of the 500 meter event in the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924. Of course, possibly the best known speed skater to deliver a record-breaking performance was Eric Heiden, who won 5 gold medals in the 1980 Games in Lake Placid, the only skater to win 5 individual gold medals in the same Olympics. This week, Lake Placid was host to a different type of speed skating; a long-distance marathon.
The Lake Placid Ice Marathon, sponsored by the Lake Placid Speed Skating Club and Marathon Skating International (MSI), was the second in a series of marathons hosted by MSI, and included three distances; the 10 K, the 25 K, and the 40 K. On the 400 M oval, the 10 K race equals 26 laps; the 25 K is 65 laps, and the 40 K equals 104 laps. At first glance these distances might seem daunting, but in Europe usually the smallest distance is 40 K, while the highest is 200 kilometers, depending on the location and size of the skating oval. Like running, the distances are measured in kilometers; surprisingly, many of the skaters race all three distances.
Speed skating originated in Holland, including the practice of marathon skating. The Dutch race Elfstedentocht (also known as the eleven cities tour), is a famous marathon that started the tradition of skating long distances. Eventually this form of skating took off in Canada and the United States, and now a dedicated group of skaters participate in both Canada and in select parts of the United States. One of the select locations in the US that hosts ice marathons is Lake Placid.
One of the organizations that contribute greatly to marathon skating is Marathon Skating International (MSI). Their mission is to promote the sport of marathon speed skating in North America, and ultimately establish marathon speed skating as a sport in the Olympic Games.
Many of the athletes this weekend were from Canada, although there were some skaters from Rochester, New York City, and New Jersey competing in the marathon. Although the Lake Placid oval hosted a session for the first time of the season the night before, the ice was in good condition for the races.
The organizing committee and MSI were pleased with how the event progressed this weekend. Race Director Linda Sausa was particularly pleased with the outcome. “The ice was beautiful, and even though it was cold Saturday morning (-8 F) the sun was shining and everyone had a positive race experience. We are grateful to ORDA for their determination with ice maintenance”.
Lake Placid will be hosting two more races this season; the Charles Jewtraw All Around race (January 9th and 10th) and the Jack Shea Sprints (February 6th and 7th).
To learn more about Marathon Skating,