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Senior invigorated by skating

September 30, 1997

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Harland Carney's idea of wheeling around town has nothing to do with getting into a car.

Every day, weather permitting, the 70-year-old straps on his top-of-the-line in-line skates and rolls out onto the streets of Chambersburg, or preferably onto empty parking lots, constantly trying to increase his distance and speed while decreasing his time in a sport he says keeps him young.

"I like to try things - whatever comes along - I just wanted to do something a little different," Carney said, who has already bungee jumped and is considering going skydiving.

The lanky, 6-foot-tall senior, a licensed real estate appraiser and broker, started skating two years ago while visiting relatives of his fiancee, Arlene Ott, in Phoenix, Ariz.

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"I thought he was crazy in-line skating at age 68," said Ott, 64, who joins Carney on the golf course twice a week but hasn't decided yet whether to take up in-line skating with him.

He liked the sport so much that he has created an in-line skating recreation group for interaction among skaters. The group includes a division for senior skaters over 55 years old.

Two years, a dislocated elbow and several pairs of worn-out skates later, Carney entered his first in-line skating race in March in Los Angeles, Calif. He finished in the top 20 percent among 3,000 who competed in the 10-kilometer event.

Hungry for more of a challenge, Carney soon set his sights on The U.S. 10K Classic in Atlanta, Ga., held over Labor Day weekend.

Over the summer, Carney trained hard for the race, measuring out a seven-mile course in the business park and practicing on hills.

But when he and Ott drove the route on the Cobb Parkway from Marietta to Atlanta the day before the race, Carney became skeptical of his ability to skate the grueling, hilly course.

"I never thought he'd finish," Ott said.

In fact, Carney barely got started.

Coming down the first hill in the race at the one mile marker, Carney lost control when the wheels in his skates began vibrating as he reached a speed of over 20 mph. He ended up hurtling head-first onto the road, rolling when he hit the pavement.

"I thought, `oh my God, here I go,'" Carney said.

When he realized nothing was broken, Carney picked himself back up with the help of a police officer and skated on.

Going up the hills was even worse punishment, he said.

"Going down was terror, going up was torture," Carney said.

Despite the tumble, Carney finished second in the race in his age group.

"It's the hardest thing I ever did in my life. When I finished that race I had nothing left," Carney said.

The retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel even rated the race more physically and mentally exhausting than surviving three days in a typhoon in the Yellow Sea off the coast of China.

"I can tell you why he finished. It's because he's so bull-headed," added Ott.

But Carney said it's that kind of determined attitude that all people his age should have.

"I think they shouldn't act so old. Go until you drop dead instead of sitting around and watching TV. Stay active and don't become a lump," Carney said.

For more information on Carney's in-line skating group, call 1-717-263-6292.

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