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National Long Track Marathon: Speed skating slated for Lake Bemidji

An ice resurfacer preps the ice Thursday afternoon on Lake Bemidji in preparation of the 2010 National Long Track Speed Skating Marathon set for February 20 and 21. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

The 1,000-meter oval has been cleared and preparations are almost complete for the 2010 National Long Track Speed skating Marathon Feb. 20 and 21.

This will be the third year the Bemidji Pioneer Speed Skating Club will host the National Long Track Marathons. The club coach and marathon organizer is Chantel Cermak, 1994 Olympic speed skater. Her husband David Cermak, is in charge of grooming the ice.

The oval is surveyed and delineated by Widseth Smith Nolting volunteer Gary Thompson. Chantel Cermak said he first takes an image of the lake on computer and then uses global positioning satellite systems to lay out the track in exact proportions.

"Every year it's in the same spot," said Cermak.

She emphasized that the track isn't just for the marathoners. It's open to anyone in the community, she said.

"Some people just want to get outdoors and get some exercise," she said.

She also encouraged community members to try the 25k race Feb. 20 and 50k Sunday. She will be in the lobby of the Hanpton Inn & Suites from 4:30-8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19, signing up skaters.

"Anybody in the community who wants to strap on some skates and race in the marathon," she said. "You don't have to qualify. We'll count their laps."

There will also be a citizens' race at 2 p.m. Saturday organized by Bemidji Community Education. The entry fee is $5 and is open to all ages with mass started by age groups.

She said people can use any kind of skates they have for the races.

There will be a warming tent at the oval during the races, and a parking lot has been cleared, so spectators are welcome to watch from their cars.

There will be an awards banquet catered by the Green Mill beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, in the Hampton. The cost is $18.50.

Cermak said the club is seeking volunteers to help with flooding the oval, as well as lap counters. To sign up, call her at 444-3884. For more information or to register, go to