Woman rolls with passion for wheels at inline marathon

Frosting in the shape of inline skates topped Greta Crowe's birthday cake at age 50. She had just taken up the sport, and enjoyed it as a companion activity to walking, running and Nordic skiing.

Inline marathon race is Saturday
The 15th NorthShore Inline Marathon is set for Saturday. (File / News Tribune)

Frosting in the shape of inline skates topped Greta Crowe's birthday cake at age 50. She had just taken up the sport, and enjoyed it as a companion activity to walking, running and Nordic skiing.

In 1996, at age 53, the Grand Rapids resident wanted a racing goal and decided to try a first-year event -- the NorthShore Inline Marathon. Crowe has been rolling along the North Shore every September since and is one of 57 skaters to finish all 14 races.

The 15th NorthShore Inline Marathon is Saturday morning. Crowe, 68, a staff member with the Itasca Community College nursing program, is looking forward to the 26.2 miles from Two Harbors to Duluth's Harbor Drive.

"I love this race, it's terrific, and I tell people about it all the time," she said this week. "This is the only race I do, but it gives me something to train for during the summer. My main goal was to finish under two hours, which I accomplished three years ago, and now I just skate for fun."

Crowe admits to having been terror stricken when on inline skates for the first time, then quickly got acclimated and wore out the wheels of two cheap pairs. She now gets out a few times week, sometimes with her 8-year-old golden retriever, going as far as 10 miles in a session.


How dedicated is Crowe? Two weeks before the 2009 NorthShore race, she took a hard fall in training, yet avoided going to the doctor and skated on race day. Two weeks after the race, X-rays revealed a crushed vertebra.

Crowe skated the 2009 race with a son and grandson, yet will be on her own Saturday as her husband, Jerry, cheers along the course.

Turning 50 on skates

Jeff Terwilliger of Edina, Minn., turned 50 Thursday and it would've made sense to have skates on his cake. He's one of Minnesota's most recognized inliners the past 20 years and even has a video of his racing exploits, compiled by Hoigaard's Racing team member Jay Jackson, a former Minnesota Duluth hockey mascot.

Terwilliger is entered in his 15th straight NorthShore Inline Marathon. He led the Elite Veteran's class last year in 1 hour, 12 minutes, 59 seconds.

"I did horribly in the first inline race I tried (at 10 kilometers), it was so slow. But once you get faster, you just hang on for dear life and enjoy it," said Terwilliger, an associate creative director for the advertising firm Carmichael Lynch. "The NorthShore race has become something you don't want to miss. It's like a reunion in Duluth because everyone you know comes there to race."

Father and son team

Duluthian Gregory Ash, 52, has finished every NorthShore Inline Marathon. His son, Geoff, 17, is racing the 26.2-mile distance for the first time. Dad knows he'll finish second in the family competition, but will enjoy the morning.


"I absolutely love inline skating, it's a joy," said Gregory Ash, a chiropractor, who finished in 1:18:32 in 2009. "The fun, fitness and camaraderie of the sport keeps me going, and the people who are still skating in their 70s and older, those are my heroes."

A brother-in-law got Gregory Ash to try an inline marathon 15 years ago and his son, a Duluth East junior, has picked up the sport as cross-training for cross country running, Nordic skiing and speed skating. Geoff Ash was second in the 2009 NorthShore Inline Half-Marathon and in 2010 has won the Baxter (Minn.) Inline Half-Marathon on June 12 and the advanced division of the Minnesota Half-Marathon on Aug. 7 in St. Paul.

Where's the Waldo Family?

Seven members of the extended Ted and Faye Waldo family will be skating Saturday.

Ted, 77, a retired IBM mechanical engineer from Rochester, Minn., missed the first NorthShore Inline Marathon, but has been in the past 13, and has passed on his interest in the race and his hometown of Duluth.

"This is probably the best-organized race in the United States and it's the perfect place for a family reunion," said Ted Waldo, a 1951 Duluth East graduate with his wife, the former Faye Klefstad.

Joining dad in the marathon are his five children: Julia Waldo Smolin, 49, of San Francisco; Susan Waldo Miller, 44, of Acton, Mass.; Brach Waldo, 54, of Houston; John Waldo, 52, of Springfield, Mo.; and Reed Waldo, 41, of Vormsund, Norway. The sons are in the event for the first time. Son-in-law Brad Miller, 44, is also entered.

"I was a cyclist for 30 years and was looking for something new when inline skating caught my eye. This is the only inline race I do and there are some age-group battles, even for those in their 70s."


Executive director in the field

Rick Abrahamson of Duluth, in his first year as executive director of the NorthShore Inline Marathon, will have a busy Saturday. He'll help at the starting line of the half-marathon at 6:45 a.m. and the marathon at 7:30 a.m., and then skate the race. Then he'll assist in course cleanup and at the awards ceremony.

Abrahamson, 47, has finished all previous marathons and was 39th overall last year in 1:13:21. He had been on the race board of directors since 1999 before becoming executive director, following Tara Alfonsi, now in a marketing job outside the race.

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