You may think that this high-speed, high-energy sport is a new one to take the nation by storm but the sport of roller derby actually dates back to the early 20s. Publicist Leo Seltzer put a new spin on dance marathon by adding roller skates to the mix. Back then, the rules were simple: 2-person teams would go around a track until they completed 3,000 miles.
The trick was, one member of each team had to be on the track at all times. During the 1935 Transcontinental Roller Derby 25 teams took to the track simultaneously. One by one they were disqualified until there was a winning team.
Seltzer wasn’t done there. After that first derby event he saw the need for a portable track that could be transported easily from one town to another. City after city participated in these marathon skating competitions. As one team would become fatigued, another would pass them, often bumping or colliding in the process.
The crowd’s response to these occurrences gave sports writer Damon Runyon the idea to incorporate the collisions into the sport itself. Initially Seltzer protested but Runyon was right, the personal contact made this a sport that would stand the test of time.
The next time you lap a member of the opposing team, think back to how this exhilarating sport got started and the great strides that have been made since the roaring 20s.