Opinion | Elite Women Disenfranchised from Northshore Inline Marathon, Again

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this opinion letter are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of bigwheelblading.com or its editorial team. While bigwheelblading.com provides a platform for diverse perspectives and encourages discussions on important social and ethical matters within inline skating, the opinions expressed in this letter are intended to be a reflection of the author’s viewpoint and personal experiences. Bigwheelblading.com is not responsible for the accuracy, fairness, or consequences of the opinions expressed in this letter.

Letter to the Editor: Elite Women Disenfranchised from Northshore Inline Marathon, Again

The exciting news out of the Northshore Inline Marathon this weekend was the breaking of the women’s course record. Gaby Rueda and Karoll Arias skated an impressive race and deserve every accolade bestowed upon them. 

Unfortunately, there have been years of complaints as to how the women’s elite race is run at Northshore that have culminated in what seem to be insurmountable tensions between elite women and race organizers.

In previous years at Northshore, for the inline marathon competition, there were three separate races competed—elite men, elite women, and skaters of all genders competing in advanced and recreational waves of the regular marathon. The elite races were awarded based on the top 3 placements for each gender, alongside the top 3 master’s age group placements for each gender. The advanced and recreational waves were awarded according to gendered age groups, according to time. 

The issues for the elite women began with the timing of the waves. The elite men would start, followed by the elite women, followed by the advanced and recreational waves shortly thereafter. Predictably, the faster coed advanced packs would catch up to the elite women, splintering their packs – or, slower elite women would hop into these coped packs to bring them back up to the peloton or chase packs. Cross-drafting in elite races is explicitly prohibited in NSIM rules, but NSIM turned a blind eye—making it so that the accepted standard for success in the women’s elite race was to draft behind the men. This basically meant there was no elite women’s race. No opportunity for women to participate in a race consisting solely of their same gender, an opportunity the men have long been handily granted that has never been questioned. 

Timing issues aren’t the only way in which NSIM has historically disenfranchised elite women. There have been years where only the men’s finish is filmed. Some years men have had a pacecar for the entire race, while women have only had a motorcycle to accompany them for part of the race. There have been years when course record payouts were initially only offered to the men.

Race organizers received multitudes of complaints from elite women over the years. Elite women who complained about cross-drafting were told they should take advantage of the opportunity to pace with the men, even though this was against the rules. They were told the men’s races were more exciting, more important, and easier to fund. They were brushed off by a board unable, or unwilling, to see that the elite women were not provided a fair opportunity to race. 

As a result, the women’s elite field shrunk from 23 in 2019, to 11 in 2021, to finally 7 in 2022. 

This year, in part to bolster the elite women’s race, Northshore implemented a new, finish time-based system to qualify women and men into its elite races. A time-based system to qualify for the elite/pro wave is standard at the world’s largest inline events, the Berlin Inline Half & Full Marathons. It is also the accepted standard in running marathons, which follow the same format as inline marathons. This year, 34 women were registered for the elite category. It seemed like progress was on the horizon.

Unfortunately, Northshore made an additional change this year, and completely did away with their awards structure, lumping every participating skater in the same category for awards—regardless of their starting wave. Elite women would be scored alongside women who started in the advanced and recreational waves — women who had a clear advantage when it came to timing, as they would have more people to paceline with, as well as the opportunity to cross-draft with men from the start. 

In short—women who raced in two totally separate races, with two totally separate sets of rules, would be held to the same standard when it came to scoring.

This is not a scoring standard implemented by any other inline skating race, anywhere in the world. This is not a scoring standard implemented by any other sport that competes in an elite or pro-level field. 

Elite women, who thought they were competing for national championship titles, who worked hard to race alongside other women in smaller pacelines, instead lost those titles and podium spots to women who had the advantage of drafting behind men from the start in larger pacelines.

Once again, elite women were shown by the organizers of the Northshore Inline Marathon that their race did not matter. 

On Saturday, elite and advanced women alike went to the judges, where they were mocked. Calls and messages to members of the board only caused board members to double down on the new system. Board members who were sympathetic said that their hands were tied, that they were overruled, and that there was nothing they could do.

Elite women in the United States deserve a fair women’s race. They deserve the opportunity to race against other elite and pro-level women; to compete in a race where they are all held, and scored, against the same standard. Northshore has an opportunity as the largest inline marathon in the United States to set the standard for how elite and pro-level female inline speed skaters are treated. Instead, women must leave the country to compete in a fair women’s elite inline speed skating race. 

The author of this letter has requested anonymity.

Did you attend the North Shore Inline Marathon this year? Do you have an opinion or experience you want to share? If so, join the discussion in the comments section below.


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  1. Elite women don’t waste time complaining, they race! If they don’t do good, they get better and come back next year!

    1. This doesn’t sound like meaningless complaining.
      It sounds like the ladies just want a fair and equal playing field.

  2. This doesn’t read as meaningless complaining, it sounds like the women just want an equal and fair playing field.
    I support that.

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