(Thanks to Paul Lutomski of the Nebraska Flyers Speed club for inspiring and starting this column.)


People skate for fun, for health, for friends, for gold medals, for travel, for family sharing, and for many other reasons. Skating can be done alone, with friends, or as part of a team, whatever works for you.  Equipment can cost as little as $50, to as much as you want to pay; sometimes used equipment is free.  You can learn the basics in a couple of hours, then spend years, if you want, gaining skills.   Read on to learn more about how you can join this sport.


For inline speed skating you will need a helmet and of course, skates. The helmet should fit snugly across your forehead and back of your head. It should be attached with a strap under your chin. A good fitting helmet will not move much if you try to push it up off your forehead. Never, EVER, skate without a helmet. Even the top inline speed skaters in the world ALWAYS wear their helmet when skating. As for skates, it is important to know that MANY skaters start off in speed skating with almost any kind of skates, from hockey skates, to recreational/fitness, whatever suits the beginning skating athlete. At a later time, speed skaters move over to a skate constructed specifically for speed.


Inline speed skaters may be 5 or 75, but they share the determination to race as fast and as far as they can. They condition themselves for sprinting and for endurance racing, always planning strategies that will get them across the finish line in first place. In the US, speed skaters often race indoors on a 100 meter flat oval track. The distances in which they race are determined by their age group. Individual champions in an age group are determined by the placements they earn in the final races of each distance skated. Two-person and four-person relays are also popular events in speed skating, with team of skaters trying to use their combined skills to defeat the other relay contestants. In addition to the thrill of simply winning the races, skaters take special pride in training themselves well enough to turn in record breaking performances when they reach the national level. For both skaters and spectators, nothing can match the excitement of inline speed athletes on record breaking pace as they skate through the corner at the final pylon.


Inline speed athletes also compete in numerous outdoor competitions across the US. Distances usually range from 5k to marathons (26.2 miles). Some races are even longer, for athletes who enjoy the challenge of very long distance skating. Outdoor racing offers speed skaters the excitement that comes from the varieties of racing courses, along with the almost endless strategies for competing and winning. Outdoor speed skating reaches higher speeds than indoor, and requires more adaptability due to the wide variety of surface conditions, hills, turns and weather conditions. Many inline speed skaters in the US like to compete in both indoor and outdoor racing.


Inline speed skating is among those sports like bicycle racing, alpine skiing, and running which bring an athlete to peak physical condition and demand consistent effort to maintain that conditioning. Inline speed athletes have participated in specific testing programs, designed by the nation's finest sports medicine experts, and the results are conclusive: the well conditioned speed skater has a cardiovascular capacity and muscle development equal to or better than some of the world's best-known runners, skiers, and bicycle racers.


The discipline required to train and compete in speed skating also has a positive effect on athletes, even when they're not skating. They learn how to take direction. They learn about persistence, about organizing their time, about how to share with teammates--they get in the habit of being able to concentrate their efforts toward a specific goal. And along with the excellent health, strength and discipline that comes with participation in this sport, speed skaters are also taught to value good sportsmanship above all the rest. When one of the country's top speed skaters was asked to describe her goals in speed skating, she said "To be the best, and to help others be just as good." That type of attitude wins more than races.