John Silker's Over-Fifty 24 Hour Record
July 2002 - Illinois, United States
Copyright © John Silker
Longest Distance Skated in a 24 Hour Period
by a Solo Skater Over 50 Years of Age,
Outdoor Road Skating
TOTAL DISTANCE SKATED
- 282 Miles
- Noon July 12th to Noon July 13th 2002
- Huntley, Illinois, USA
On July 13, 2002, 50 year old John Silker established a world's record
for longest distance skated in a 24 hour period by a solo
skater over 50 years of age, outdoor road skating.
John skated 282 miles in just under 24 hours and the event
took place at Del Webb's Sun City in Huntley, Illinois, United States.
As a 6 feet 2 inch, 220 pound teacher, John is not your
typical endurance athlete. He did not even start skating until
age 46, four years before his attempt to establish a world's record.
The purpose of the record-setting event was to raise money for the
Gaver's Community Cancer Foundation (John's mother died
of cancer when he was age 19). Another purpose was to encourage and
inspire older athletes and establish a
higher standard and expectation for what those athletes can
For more information contact:
This event was one of the toughest ordeals I have ever gotten myself
into. In 1983 I finished 5th in the
Race Across America, a 3,250
mile transcontienal bicycle race, and I have competed in numerous
other events throughout the years. But I have always competed
against distance and never against time, which is a different
I started ice speed skating 4 years ago in 1998, and for what ver reason
just fell in love with it. By the end of the 2002 season I will have
skated approximately 5,000 miles. Amazingly, I do have a life as
a husband, father, and teacher.
Nothing in Moderation
Moderation is something I ve never done very well.
Recently I was watching the movie
"Michael", starring Jon Travolta, where he pours huge
amounts of sugar on everything. He
comments, "You can never eat too much sugar". I understood.
My mother tried to
practice moderation with me at meals in high school.
I left the table hungry
and was back at the refrigerator 15 minutes later
making a snack. And it wasn t
just food, it was sports too.
John Skated 86 Miles from Athens to Atlanta
The longer the race, the better I like it. I've never been fast.
There are hundreds
of skaters who can beat me, and have. But for some reason I have
the ability to go
slow for a very long time. My first bicycle race was 800 miles and
I finished 10th.
The second was 3,250 miles and I finished 5th. The longest race
I could find in
inline skating was the 86 mile
Athens to Atlanta Road Skate. I finished
the skate, but due to some
equipment problems I was pretty well beat up. Still, just
completing A2A gave me enough
confidence to set myself a goal of establishing a Men's
twenty-four hour inline skating world
record, since I was going to turn fifty in January of 2002.
Any Distance Would be a Record
Because there was no established "over-50 24 hour record"
any distance I covered would be a world's record.
However, everyone has their pride and I wanted to set a
challenging mark for
other, more talented skaters to shoot for. Many people have
asked me why there was no
current record for the 50+ age group and I really didn't
know. Now I understand.
It is one of the most difficult challenges I have ever undertaken.
John Was the Skater and the Organizer
I had to wear a multitude of different hats. I was the event director,
coordinator, publicist, promoter, and last but not least, the athlete. I was on
the phone or the computer at least two hours a night trying to get
everything set up and organized. Setting a world record is extremely complex.
A venue must be secured, the course distance has to be
certified, insurance must be purchased, and
officials and a USOC-level drug test must be arranged for. Volunteers, all
family and friends, must be organized. It required over 20 volunteers, 7 of
whom were with me for the entire 24 hours. The costs ran into several
thousand dollars, to say nothing of the cost of skating equipment and clothing.
Why John Did It
When the logistics got overwhelming I would put on my skates
and try to remember
the two reasons why I was doing this in the first place. First, when I was 19 my
mother had died of cancer. My 24 hour attempt would help to raise money for
the Gaver s Community Cancer Foundation. Second, skating is a passion
that gives me a great deal of personal satisfaction. I love to skate. Since
2001 I have skated almost 5000 miles to prepare for this event. Maybe the simple
rhythm is good for my simple mind.
Everything is Ready for the Skate
Finally, one week before the event, all the
loose ends came together and the event was ready to proceed.
We were blessed. The summer had been a series of scorching hot days and muggy
nights. The weekend of July 12th and 13th, 2002 bought a break in the heat.
Friday's high temperature was predicted to be only 80. The event would start
at noon at Del Webb sa Sun City complex in Huntley, IL. 45 miles NW of Chicago.
The sky was blue and the 2.6 miles course was flat with only a slight rise over
bridge crossing a small creek. The road surface had been perfect just weeks
before the event but recent construction traffic had dropped a considerable
amount of debris on the road. The Del Webb folks set out 2 street sweepers to
clean up the mess but several hours of manual sweeping by volunteers was
required to make the course safe and skateable.
The Skate Begins
After my equipment nightmares at A2A I resolved myself to get the right
skates to allow me the best chance to establish a respectable age group
record. Through the years I had become good friends with Andy Lundstrom
from Denver, CO. Andy designs and manufactures the Xenan brand custom
skates the most recent version sporting 100 mm wheels. The larger wheels,
lightness of the boot and the tremendous fit would all be critical factors
when skating for 24 continuous hours. I bit the bullet and invested in
the custom Xenan skates. This was probably the best decision I could have made.
The First 6 Hours
The start of any event is kind of a grace period. The expectations are high
and the adrenaline is flowing. Just 6 hours into the event, however, the
realization hit me; Geez, what the heck were you thinking? What did you get
yourself into this time? We had already covered 84 miles. The skating had
been effortless, but my mind kept thinking 18 hours to go. Normally when I
do events I m able to get into a zone, an altered state of consciousness that
allows you to put aside the task at hand and focus on other things. But at that
time I kept focusing on the clock, how much time left. The positive side was
that I was skating without effort. The thousands of miles I had logged in
training this year served me well as a base and my muscles were performing
without conscious thought.
Originally Hoped to Skate 300 Miles
When I had first considered setting a 24 hours record, I had thought that
300 miles would be a reasonable goal. The more I learned and trained and
the more I talked to other skaters the more that original goal started to
creep down. By the time we started at noon I was hoping to do at least 240
miles. 10 miles and hour pace wouldn t be that bad for a 50 year old man.
8 hours and 111 Miles Into the Skate
At the 1st 8-hour point we had covered 111 miles, which put us on pace
to break the men s overall world record of 331 miles. However, I had
figured, whatever I was able to do the 1st 8 hours I could do about 80%
of that the second 8 hours and 80% of that the last 8 hours. But still
that meant a 280 - 290 mile 24 hour was a very good possibility.
John's Support Crew
All contact with my support crew, consisting of my wife, Deb, my children,
Doran and Kate, Bruce Taira, (Medical staff) and Jerry Miceli, (Head timer)
could only occur at the home base by Wild Flower Lake. Through running
handoffs they kept me fed with liquid nutrition and hydrated, occasionally
supplementing the fluids with a sandwich and fruit throughout the day. Now
as night fell it was time to come in for the first real break of the event.
Well, not so much of a break as getting ready for the dark hours ahead. The
lighting system was put on and within 3 minutes I as back out on the course.
Up until this point I had only been off the course for several washroom breaks.
I can remember thinking how good my feet felt and how little effort I had to
exert when skating.
12 Hours and 158 Miles
I didn t tell my crew but I had never actually skated at night before. One
of those little details you just don t get to when dealing with all the other
tasks. But with the road surface having had the construction traffic on it I
was a little concerned. Several laps with the helmet light and the lights from
the follow vehicle that carried the officials and there was no problem. I just
had to be careful to pick the right line. With the darkness also came much
cooler temperatures and a total lack of any wind. I settled into a steady pace
and by midnight, the 12-hour point, we hit 158 miles. At this point we took a
16-minute break to get a massage.
The greatest thing about taking the break was not being off the skates but
rather, talking to other human being. They seemed really excited about what
was going on. I had, several hours ago, decided that this was a little crazy,
although I never told them, and I was just hoping they didn t hate me for
getting them into this. But they seem genuinely into the event and I just
kept my mouth shut. Besides I was actually enjoying the skating and what a
great adventure, I mean how many people have ever tried this?
What it Was Like
Music has always relaxed me. Throughout the event I listened to the stereo.
Normally, the music takes me places, but tonight while I enjoyed the tunes
I was constantly aware of the time element. The other factor that started
to affect me was the loneliness. I really felt alone. During the day there
had been lots of people out walking and exercising but now the loneliness of
the night set in. I constantly had to resist the urge to go in for a break,
not because I needed a physical break, but because I wanted to take my mind
off the damn clock and talk to someone.
16 Hour Break
Finally at 4:00 am I decided to take a break. The eastern sky was just starting
to brighten up, but I kept thinking about the fact that I had 8 hours to go. I
needed to talk to someone.
I had a small blister that was starting to form on my left foot and I figured it
was as any excuse to take a break.
Moral Support from Friends
Just as I pulled in some skating buddies from Rockford, pull into the rest stop.
They had driven over at what they thought might be a low spot mentally and were
there to help pull me through. Their timing was great. I had 4 people massaging
my legs, shoulders and arms while Bruce patched up my blister. Bruce then
stretched out a tight hamstring and I just lay there for about 5 minutes. I felt
silly just lying there but I really didn t want to leave the people.
Back out on the course, after 14 minutes of break, I was extremely chilly. I
spent the whole 1st lap shivering. It didn t take long to get into the rhythm.
The blister patch really helped the foot and every thing seemed to be going well.
I saw my friends van and waved as I thought they were heading home. A minute
later I heard some honking and looked over to see the van passing me with two
huge moons in thongs hanging out the back. By the time I got to the Wild
Flower home base they were standing behind a sign that said No Drafting. They
had their shirts off and rolled up their pants so it looked like they had no
clothes on. As I rolled by I gave them a large squirt of water. They jumped and
I rolled on down the course laughing to myself.
At this point my plan was to skate for a few hours and take another break. Not
that I needed it physically, but the fact that I had to keep going for the 7
more hours was weighing on me. Every other event I have ever done was based on
distance. When you get it done your finished. But in a 24 timed event you have
to keep going regardless of how far you go. It requires a different mindset.
One I was not prepared for.
I had resolved myself to the fact that we would probably hit about 250 miles. But
my crew kept talking about 280. When I wanted to come in and take a break, Jerry
would say you can t come in. You got to keep going. Oprah did 280, you got to
beat that. (Later I asked Jerry what that meant, he said Oprah ran the Chicago
Marathon and every one wanted to see if they beat Oprah s time.) Personally I
just think he was just getting slaphappy from no sleep. Well, no matter, it worked.
About 9:00 am one of the crew was holding up a sign. It read 25 miles. Meaning
we had 25 miles to go to break 280. Now I know the men s overall World Record
is 331 miles but for an old guy who just started skating a couple of years ago
that s pretty respectable mark.
The crowd started to grow at Wild Flower Lake. With just over 15 minutes left I
had had enough and I pulled off the course and into Wild flower home base and
called it a day, literally 24 hours. The total distance covered was 282 miles.
It was a very emotional moment. When you work so very hard with other people to
reach a goal that has a great cause it s pretty easy to get choked up. Not to
let me get too sentimental my daughter and a friend dump a cooler of ice water
over my head. (No Gatorade, this was a low budget operation.) I almost jumped
up out of the chair but I couldn t. It brought laughter to the moment and
reminded me to keep it light.
The culmination of a goal can be like the loss of a good friend. While I
definitely enjoyed the whole process I did not like the loneliness associated
with the solo, nose against the wind feature of the world record rules.
Next time I will find an event that is already set up and you can socialize
during the event. Did I say next time? What am I thinking? Maybe I ll practice
some moderation? No, you can never eat too much sugar.
24 Hour Record Attempts by Other Skaters
Cyril Carcano's 24 Hour Skate (Paced)
Kent Baake's 24 Hour Skate
Anthony Rondel's 24 Hour Skate
Sandy Snakenberg's 24 Hour Skate
Kent Baake's Story
Uwe Brockmann's 24 Hour Skate
Index to Skaters by Country
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