Racing on Clap Skates
Speed skating has traditionally been taught by allowing skaters of all ages to race against each other. A speed skater may take years to master the technique required to race efficiently but the instinct to race on skates seems to happen soon after an individual finds a pair of skates that fit. Long Track speed skating in particular requires the utmost attention to efficient technical skating, as the slightest change in technique can lead to valuable seconds of improvement in time.
Long Track Competitions are held on a 400 metre oval. Skaters typically race on Clap Skates, where the heel of the boot lifts off the blade via a hinge mechanism so that the blade remains on the ice while the skater's leg starts to rest.
In the Mass Start format, the skaters start and race together so that both placement in the race as well as the skater’s time for the distance skated are recorded. In the Olympic Style format, the skaters compete in pairs, each skater racing in their own lane, switching from the inner to the outer lane as the race progresses so that at the end of each race, the skater has a time for skating exactly the same distance. Overall placement is determined by a skater's time in each distance.
Marathon speed skating takes place in a variety of locations and over a range of distances. The race courses may be on a Long Track oval, or on lakes or canals. This means that the condition of the natural ice and the weather on the day of the event normally plays an important role in the challenge faced by the skaters. Marathons normally start with a mass start and skaters race a variety of distances over the same course.