Inline speed skating or inline racing is a competitive roller sport with events that can be conducted in many racing formats and can be skated on a variety of surfaces. Inline racing events are often called meets, competitions or championships. These activities separate skaters into several age, gender and/or skill based groups (divisions) to race in several specified distances. Divisions with a lot of competitors often require several elimination races in order to narrow down the field to those skaters who qualify for a final race.
The United States has many inline racing clubs and teams that train at indoor skating rinks and roller sports centers. These competitive activities are usually held on plastic coated hardwood floors, plastic coated cement floors or smooth plastic coated asphalt surfaces. The track is 100 meters in circumference, and the rectangle is marked by four corner pylons. National Inline Racing Association (NIRA) events use tracks that are marked by multiple pylons to define an oval shaped track.
Outdoor races have many options on where they are skated. They can be held on regular concrete or asphalt pavement, so streets and park roads that are closed to regular traffic are good locations. These events can also be held at specialized patinodrome venues that are very similar to velodromes. Patinodromes are around 200 meters in circumference with an asphalt, concrete or other type of paved surface. The track curves are sometimes banked in these facilities. These specialized skating tracks are rare in the United States but common in Europe and among international inline racing teams and clubs.
There are many inline race event formats to suit any skater including:
Time Trial Races
Time trials are events that allow each skater to race against the clock. In these races, skaters perform individually or in pairs along distances between 100 meters and 300 meters in an effort to achieve the best time. Once in a while, time trials are held over longer distances, but these events are not very popular.
Sprint races feature small groups of around a half dozen skaters. These athletes race along distances of 300 meters to 1000 meters and advance in a series of heats to a final round of skating.
Straight races allow athletes to skate through heats, quarter-finals, and semi-finals before competing as finalist in a mass-start race from 500 meters to 5000 meters in length.
In elimination races - sometimes called last man out - the last skater in the pack is eliminated from the competition each time the entire group of skaters completes a lap or when they complete a specific number of laps. By the time there are only one or two laps left in the event, the pack has been narrowed down to the best four or five skaters, and the first racer to cross the finish line wins the race.
Points races are medium-distance events where the first, second and third skaters to cross the finish line during various pre-determined laps are awarded points. Laps crossed later in the race are worth more points than earlier ones. The final lap has the most point value. In points races, it is possible for a skater to win without being the first athlete who crosses the final finish line.
Points-Elimination Combination Races
Speed skating events that consist of a combination of elimination race and points races requirements are called points-elimation races.
Relay racing events consist of teams of two to four skaters each racing other teams over a fixed distance course, while 'relaying' or changing skaters on the course every 1 or 2 laps. Indoor meet activities sometimes include mixed-gender relay events with teams that have either one female and one male or two females and two males. In a mixed relay, It is normal for a female goes to the starting line as the first skater to race. Outdoor relays, which are commonly held on tracks, are normally single-gender events.
Instead of racing over a specified distance or number of laps, the skaters in criterium races skate for a certain amount of time, then add on a small number of extra laps. The event time length is usually anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, after which a bell sounds and athletes are informed that the race will be completed after one or two more laps around the course. The segment of the race that is skated after the bell sounds is called the bell lap or the bell laps.
Distance RacesWhile events like points-elimination races and criterium races can cover distances of 10 to 25 kilometers, a true distance race covers a set distance of about 5 kilometers or more without the need for any elimination or points rules. These events can have a specific destination, or they can be conducted on a repeating course that has a circumference of at least 1 kilometer. Distance races often attract recreational and fitness skaters in addition to members of inline racing clubs and competitive speed skaters.
Inline skating marathon races attract many participants of all skating skill and commitment levels. These events are 42.195 kilometers or 26.219 miles long and can be found all over the world.
Inline skating half-marathon races are also attractive to fitness skaters seeking activities to boost their roller sports training goals.
Ultra Marathon Races
Ultra marathons, like the New York City Skate Marathon (100 kilometers) and the Athens to Atlanta Road Skate (A2A - 139.5 kilometers), draw large numbers of skaters, too.
Dryland Triathlon Races
Dryland triathlon races are sometimes organized by triathlon sponsors. These events use inline skating to replace the swimming segment of the triathlon race.
Downhill races are popular in the Alpine countries of Europe. In these timed gravity sports events, skaters race alone down a steep course, and the event uses the best time of two heats to determine a winner. Downhill inline racing skates are more like traditional inline skates than inline speed skates. Downhill skaters cover themselves with extensive body armor, protective gear and high quality helmets, since they can reach speeds of up to 75 kilometers per hour.