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Kopac's Corner

Blade Runner

by Bob Kopac

An article in the HMRRC PACE SETTER mentioned that a marathon in Los Angeles allowed inline skaters. It figures that free-wheeling California types would be the first to allow inline skaters in marathons. The staid Boston Marathon and New York Marathon officials stated haughtily that there would never be skaters in their marathons. It is reported these officials are debating whether all runners should wear morning coats or bonnets. Actually, I am an enthusiastic supporter of skaters in marathons. Since cross-training is the rage, I believe race officials would get more cross-trainers at races by allowing inline skates. Of course, it would be at the risk of cross runners. I recommend that Los Angeles change the name of its marathon to BLADE RUNNER -- very rad, very West Coast.

I used to skate on roller-skates, each skate having two pairs of stable, common-sensible, side-by-side wheels. With those skates, one could roll over speed bumps or small cows and not fall over. On the other hand, with inline skates, encountering a stone the size of a pea causes one to have contact of the fourth kind with terra firma. What kind of masochistic sport is that? It sounds as painful as ultra-marathons.

Roller-skates versus inline skates is equivalent to cars versus motorcycles. A car can stand by itself without falling over--unless it is a Corvair--because the four wheels balance the weight evenly. On the other hand, a motorcycle with two wheels falls right over without a kickstand. I won't suggest you should wear a kickstand while inline skating, although that might be a product I could market to gullible, er, discerning, inline skating enthusiasts.

I finally succumbed to the '90s cross-training fad and bought a pair of inline skates, renegade black, the color of future bruises. Next came the inline-skating accessories, de rigueur for the rolling class--helmet, wrist protectors, elbow protectors, knee protectors--the names should have been warning signals to me as to the nature of this sport. Combined with black shorts and a yellow top for high-visibility, I looked like a killer bee.

Now that I was fashionably attired, the next "step" was to find a place to skate. After skating at a roller rink, I heard the sound of thousands of wheels endlessly ringing in my head and I felt like Quasimodo--"The wheels!" No, inline skating is an outdoor activity, but the question was, where?

I tried skating at business parking lots, but the Security Police, armed with corporate edicts and backed by industrial-strength lawyers, chased me away. Next I tried skating at school parking lots, but being subjected to teenage drivers was grounds for revocation of my life insurance policy. So I followed the advice I heard in my childhood: "Go play in traffic."

Skating on neighborhood streets, I soon discovered that each new driveway had a potential for introducing me to my neighbors and their cars. I quickly learned which streets had the fastest dogs and emus. In addition, my knees became intimately acquainted with the tons of stones and grit remaining from the street sanding for Snowbud. Undeterred, and armed with a map of the county, I roamed the streets searching for the perfect skating surface. I skated on so many streets, I was the perfect candidate for the 911 street-mapping assignment.

After many months of discovering every stone, dog, and irate motorist in the county, I finally found nirvana--an ultra-wide stone-free street, flowering trees in the Spring, golden-and-russet-colored leaves in the Fall, and no irate dogs or growling neighbors. The only drawback is dodging tractor-trailers, but that is a small price to pay for being a blade runner.