“I’ve got a brand new pair of roller skates, you’ve got a brand new key. I think that we should get together and try them out to see…”
Melanie Safka, circa 1971
When I was little, my sisters and I would strap a pair of these onto our sneakers and tool around the neighborhood.
When I was in middle school, we skated around the gymnasium on Friday nights, lights dimmed, our favorite music playing, and hoping the boy of our dreams would ask us to skate.
Though the technology of roller skates has changed dramatically over the years, the joy of skating is alive and well. And it’s more than just a recreational activity. It’s a world-wide phenomenon. A sport unto itself.
And so, when my sister Pamela mentioned that she wanted to skate a marathon, I said I would do it with her. I mean, how hard could it be? Yes, it’s 26.2 miles. But I’ve run that distance several times. I’ve even walked it. How hard could it be to cover the distance with a set of wheels to propel me?
Answer? Much harder than I expected.
I’ll be honest. Before my first training skate, I lumped rollerblading into the same category as Curling, slightly above Dominoes, the national sport of Jamaica (right behind cricket). Not a “real” sport. Not the kind of sport that, if practiced regularly, would increase muscle strength and endurance. Not the kind that would leave you sweaty and breathless and feeling no guilt about the mound of pancakes you might consider having after a long, hard work-out.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Every training skate was harder than the one before. I battled hills (imagine climbing steep hills with little wheels attached to your feet), brutal winds, and behemoth-sized blisters. And at the end of every skate, I was spent. Completely and utterly spent.
But by race day, I was ready! Last Sunday, Pamela and I donned our wings and headed to the beautiful Napa Valley. We skated on the Silverado Trail, surrounded by lush vineyards, on a perfect, cloudy morning. We climbed one hill after another and coasted downhill amidst a generous cross-wind. We ate our Gu, drank our Gatorade and reveled in the cheers of the crowd gathered at the finish line waiting for the last skaters to finish (yes, that’s correct, we finished last).
I’m proud to say that we finished last. Proud because, unlike all the others behind us (there were three), we didn’t quit. Proud because we skated in recreational skates that have smaller wheels rather than the fitness skates with badass wheels that the others wore. Proud because the others weren’t wearing butterfly wings which, contrary to popular belief, do not actually lift you up and carry you but instead create drag in the wind.
And hey, if you’re going to finish last, you might as well look good doing it. And make the front page of the newspaper to boot.
A Note to Curlers:
I’m willing to concede that, because I was so dreadfully wrong about skating being a true sport, I am very likely wrong about curling. In fact, I’ll go one step further and apologize, not only to all the curlers out there, but to their fans as well. In particular, to my friend Missy Simpkins. I mean, curling has done what roller-skating has not been able to do—it has become an Olympic sport!
What do think? Should roller skating be an Olympic sport? Do you think Curling is a “real” sport?