Marathon speedskaters will test their endurance on Sylvan Lake over the Family Day weekend.
A new 24-hour relay will raise money for the Children’s Wish Foundation to grant wishes of seriously ill children and mark the Town of Sylvan Lake’s centennial.
“It’s time to give back,” said organizer Art Goelema of the Foothills Speed Skating Marathon Association.
“A fundraiser’s been on my mind for two years and the help and sponsors came out right after I said it was for the foundation.”
Nearly 20 skaters are registered and Goelema hopes for more.
“It’s an open invitation. Each skater must raise $200 in pledges to participate,” he said, adding donations can also be made through the foundation’s website, www.childrenswish.ca/en-ab/events, or the association’s at www.slimarathon.webs.com.
Goelema said although there are three levels of skaters — beginners, the middle class and the supermen — speed is not important.
“We just want to make it fun. We have no target, but if we can write a little cheque out to the foundation, that would be great.”
The event starts at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 17, and ends at 2 p.m. Family Day, Feb. 18. Team members will skate one hour on then two off. Hotel rooms will be available for skaters to rest in.
A special two-km track will be carved out of the five-km lake track for the association’s marathon the following weekend. Sponsors have donated 10 generator sets with lights and another nine spotlights to light the track for safety.
“We work a week on that track so it will be smooth and safe.”
A small village with heated tents and concessions will be set up for spectators.
Goelema hopes “the weather gods will be with us.
“If it’s -5C and a beautiful Alberta sunny day, what better weather for it? If we have wind chill of -25C, we might have to cancel to keep it safe.
“If you’re as stubborn as I am — wooden shoes, wooden head, wouldn’t listen — then we won’t quit,” laughed the Dutch-born skater.
Weather permitting, the Red Deer Central Lions Speedskating Club and other Central Alberta junior skaters will skate a 10-km event from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Family Day. The Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce is organizing 100 local children to skate at noon to help fundraise and celebrate the town’s centennial.
The following weekend is the Foothills Speed Skating Marathon Association’s ninth annual Sylvan Lake Ice Marathon. Events start on Feb. 22 at 11 a.m. with a 50-km race for men and women, followed by Saturday’s 9 a.m. start of a 100-km race for men and women.
A recreational tour of five-to-100-km also goes on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a youth (under 16) 25-km race beginning at noon.
Sunday’s 10-km race starts at 10 a.m. and the 25-km race at noon.
New this year is a 160-metre kortebaan sprint at noon all three days.
A Saturday social for participants starts at 5 p.m. in the Chateau Inn Best Western.
Registration for all the events and more information is available online at www.slimarathon.webs.com or by emailing Goelema at email@example.com.