In this segment, NorthShore interviews a select, exclusive group of skaters who have completed every single NorthShore Inline Marathon since the inaugural race in 1996.
Today, we chat with Bernie Reidinger from Grand View, Wisconsin. He and his wife are retired and live on a 40-acre homestead in the north woods near Lake Superior.
NorthShore Inline Marathon (NSIM): Hi Bernie! Please tell me a bit about yourself.
Bernie Reidinger (BR): I was born and raised in Eau Claire, WI. I live now in Grand View, about 35 miles north of Hayward, Wisconsin. We’ve built a retirement home up here, we’ve had the property for 25 years but we retired 5 years ago at the age of 65 and we’re living here now. So I get to skate on all the country roads.
NSIM: What is your history with the sport of skating?
BR: I started inline skating about ’94 or ’95. I played hockey all my life, since I was about 6 years old, then when I was 40 I started running and skating. There was a few of us that skated, a few people from the Twin Cities came up and we had about, maybe a 10 kilometer skate in Eau Claire in Carson Park. I bought some Rollerblades and started. And that’s how we got going!
NSIM: How did you first hear about NorthShore?
BR: I was skating with Cheri Uelmen, who has since passed away–she has a few records at NorthShore–and we did that 10k in Eau Claire. Then back in ’96 we went up to the dome (RollerDome) and we were skating in the Twin Cities on Wednesday evenings or something, and we heard about the start of this marathon and thought “we’ve got to go up and do that”. We went up and we skated through it and we had a great time.
NSIM: What was that first year like?
BR: The first year was… I’m trying to remember what kind of skates I had back then. I think I had some old four-wheelers. I think the following year I had… I can’t remember what I went to. It was quite a thrill you know? We finished up there, fairly decent. The next year we went up a little higher and we asked how high we could really go without training, you know, training everyday. This was really just a recreational thing for us at the time and basically it still is.
I was a marathon runner since I was 40, and I’ve run 64 of those. So I was in pretty good shape, and after all the ice skating I did I figured I should be able to do this without any trouble. Of course I really learned how to skate well from Eddy Matzger’s clinic up there. He told us what we were doing wrong, and how the strides are different from on ice and on wheels with the double push and other fancy stuff you can do.
NSIM: What makes you come back year after year? When did you realize doing every race was “your thing”?
BR: After the first couple, and I said well, if we keep doing this, by the time we hit the 20th anniversary, I’ll be such and such… I don’t know 66 or 68 or something. Anyway, it was just kind of habit forming. It’s kind of like running marathons, your brain turns dead (laughing). That’s what Terry Holm told me. You have some type of disease if you keep doing this stuff year after year.
NSIM: Do you have a favorite NSIM race moment?
BR: The highlight of my life was in 1998 when I finished on the podium with Terry Holm and Dennis Cummings from California. Terry was first and Dennis was second. I was 50, Dennis was 51 and Terry was 54. I was number three but it was a great time for me and I think I held the record for 50 year olds for quite some time after. The following month Terry was working for Silent Sports and his picture was on the cover and I had that cover on my wall, thinking some day I’d be able to catch him. But I’ve never been able to catch him.
NSIM: (Laughs) Yeah, Terry is also one of your fellow lifetime skaters.
BR: Yep. So now I’m looking towards 25 (25th Annual NSIM in 2020), but with age creeping up it gets harder and harder. I used to wait a while to sign up until the price changed or whatever, but knew I was going to go up to Duluth every year anyways. I want to keep the streak alive. I had a really long streak at Journey’s Marathon, the running marathon in Eagle River, WI, but one year I was sick and couldn’t make it so that streak is dead. I said I gotta keep doing this inline thing. Now in the last four or five years when we go up for the race weekend I just sign up there and hope that I’ll keep making it year to year.
NSIM: What is your favorite aspect of NorthShore Inline Marathon?
BR: The course has been great over the years. Some years with the concrete in rough shape in the tunnels, that’s a challenge. But when the roads are good the course is fabulous. I look forward to the end of it, and the atmosphere of being with all the other skaters. It’s just a great time and something you gotta get into.
NSIM: What is your best advice for someone who’s never skated before, or never skated in a race before?
BR: A lot of people figure they’re scared of falling down, it’s a balance thing. When you think about running, skating is not as hard on the body as running until you fall, then it could be a little worse (laughs). Until you try it, a lot of people are afraid to try and once they try it, they usually stick with it.
I’ve done a lot of shorter races in the past but I figure if you can skate 10 or 12 miles, you can skate the marathon. It’s kind of like running, a few longer ones in training and you just need to get your mind set. It’s a mind thing. Yeah, it’s going to hurt a little bit but if you can get your mind set you can make it through.
NSIM: What are some of your go-to tips for preparing for the NorthShore Marathon?
BR: I used to skate 5 or 6 times per week leading up to the race. Maybe a half hour, getting up to an hour. These days, if I can get a few, half dozen or a dozen skates before race day… I go out to the Madeline Island Inline Marathon every year, and if I have a good race and a few good skates before that I always feel that I’ll be in top shape for NorthShore. Well, it always seems like I’m busy all summer long and I never skate like I should. So I just get on the bus and go (laughs). I’ll get through it, but how long is it going to take, how many aches and pains on that day…
NSIM: Do you do any other cross-training or other sports or activities?
BR: I still run 3 to 4 days a week, probably average of a half hour to an hour. I do a bit of weight training and that at home here. Besides that, I’m pretty active as far as outdoors go. I’m digging and shoveling and cutting wood and splitting wood and this and that. I get plenty of exercise, let’s put it that way.
Note: At the 2018 NorthShore Inline Marathon, Bernie finished 5th in his new age group (Male 70-74) with a time of 1:49:11. He’s already signed up for 2019 to try for his 24th NSIM finish!