Sylvan prepares for Ice Marathon

Organizers of the Sylvan Lake Ice Marathon are busy preparing a track

Annie Muilwijk leads a group of Red Deer Masters Speedskating Club members in training on the Golden Circle oval for the upcoming 2011 Foothills Speed Skating Marathon on Sylvan Lake later this month.

Annie Muilwijk leads a group of Red Deer Masters Speedskating Club members in training on the Golden Circle oval for the upcoming 2011 Foothills Speed Skating Marathon on Sylvan Lake later this month.

Organizers of the Sylvan Lake Ice Marathon are busy preparing a track for an event that’s expanded to two days and two 100-km races.

Mike Messing, chair of the non-profit Foothills Speed Skating Marathon Association, said work is underway on building a five-km track on Sylvan Lake’s south end, right against Lakeshore Drive.

The event has expanded to two days and will run Thursday Feb. 24 and Saturday Feb. 26.

Messing said it’s hoped several hundred spectators will attend the marathon and bring their regular skates, whether for ice skating or hockey, so they can try out that track themselves.

It’s also hoped many more entrants will race around the oval. The local group worked alongside an Edmonton speedskating group so they could promote each other’s events overseas, particularly in the Netherlands.

Edmonton’s Silver Skate Festival, which includes a speedskating marathon, occurs this Family Day weekend.

Messing said some people from overseas have registered.

“We’re hoping by having four races in eight days, it would be more attractive for those people to come over,” said Messing. “We’re hoping to see anywhere from 70 to 110 (entrants).”

Last year’s one-day event drew about 70 entrants.

Sylvan Lake’s marathon begins with the Viterra 50-km race/tour at 11 a.m. on Feb. 24.

There’s a break to help get the speedskaters ready for Feb. 26 events. It kicks off with the Nutrisource men’s 100-km race at 9 a.m. and the Sunny South Vet Services women’s 100-km race at 9 a.m.

A tour will go from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on the Saturday, where the public has the chance to skate a minimum of five km and a maximum of 100 km.

The tour will cost $15, but those 16 and under can skate the tour for free.

A 25-km youth race for those 16 years and under will kick off at 1:30 p.m. with a charge of $15. Entry fees for race categories range from $15 to $75 depending on event, distance and registration date.

Area residents who try out the track will get a card stamped to show how many laps they did, and they’ll get a medallion for it. Last year, about 200 people took part in the tour.

The events are free to spectators.

Prizes will be handed out to the winners of the speedskating races, as well as to the combined winners of the Edmonton and Sylvan races.

While recreational speedskaters will take to the ice, other entrants will be at Sylvan’s event “strictly to win,” said Messing.

This is the second year in a row that the marathon has been held, following a two-year hiatus.

Many people who launched the event are from the Netherlands, where speedskaters will race more than 200 km along canals and lakes during a 11-city tour.

For more information on Sylvan’s registration, go online at www.slimarathon.webs.com

Food vendors will serve a variety of fare, including those offering Dutch treats. There will be shelters for those who need to get warmed up.

The main sponsors, Viterra and Nutrisource, two Central Alberta feed companies, and Sunny South Vet Services, have contributed greatly to the cost of the event, which Messing said will run about $20,000.

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