When was the last time you laced up a pair of roller skates? If you think you may have outgrown roller sports, you might want to take a little inspiration from Edmond inline skaters, Mike Pickle, 48 and Roger Meadows, 52. Both men are competing against, and beating, inline skaters less than half their age!
Mike Pickle began skating competitively when he was thirteen and continued right through high school on the old quad (eight-wheel) skates. Today's inline skates have wheels all in a line, similar to an ice skate blade.
"I was from a small town in Kansas, so the rink was also small and I didn't have a coach," said Mike. "I was pretty good even back then, but after high school, I went into the army, got married, and had kids…so skating went by the wayside. When I moved years later, I became friends with a guy who owned a larger rink and had a speed skating team. I was thirty-eight years old and the other skaters on the team were just teenagers, but that didn't stop me."
In fact, it seems nothing stopped Mike, including the fact that he had never been on inline skates.
"They're a lot different," said Mike. "They're much faster and have less wheel resistance than the old skates I was used to. Plus, you have to have sturdy ankles and good balance."
It took Mike about a year, practicing two to three hours each week, before he was good enough to compete in the novice division. In his second year, he placed second at the regional competition and went on to nationals, where he placed second among the best 54 skaters in the nation. In 1999, Mike went to Paris, France for a World Tour and competed with more than 900 skaters from twenty different countries. In the last ten years, he has won more than 200 metals, 50 trophies and several gold cups.
Today, at 48, Mike is still going strong. A registered coach for three years, he now often competes in five to six races in a weekend from 500 meters to 2500 meters per race.
Roger Meadows, 52, is another inspiration on wheels. A former runner, he didn't even begin skating until five years ago, when his doctor recommended skating as rehab after knee surgery. Roger had to borrow an older pair of skates just to get started. Today, he trains two to three times a week preparing for marathons.
"I love it!" said Roger. "It's easy on the joints and I can exercise longer than running. I've competed four times in the largest inline skating marathon held each year in Duluth, Minnesota. I've never won, but I did beat my own time. Plus, it's exciting just to skate with more than 4500 other skaters along the north shore of Lake Superior. There aren't a lot of ways to compete at home…the closest marathon is in Austin – the Texas Road Rash.
Both Roger and Mike will admit the sport has its "ups and downs." Roger broke a few ribs during a marathon in a rainstorm. Mike dislocated his shoulder, has been knocked unconscious two times and suffered a third degree burn that melted his uniform to his hip.
Still, both men are strong advocates of the sport (and using safety equipment like a helmet and wrist guards). They also agree that Oklahoma has some wonderful trails that people who train or just skate for pleasure can enjoy. Lake Hefner in north Oklahoma City and Mitch Park in Edmond have well maintained trails and are excellent places to skate-smooth, out of traffic and with beautiful surroundings. The new River Trails System is another option near Bricktown, where it parallels the Canadian River.
Inline skating is gaining popularity in all age groups. Although speed racers tend to be about twenty-one years old, people from three to sixty are taking advantage of the health benefits and just plain fun. For more information visit www.usarollersports.org.