As Governor Blagojevich threatens to shut down several state parks along Illinois' historic canals this winter*, consider Illinoistocht. This Web site ponders the potential for marathon ice skating events on the Hennepin Canal and/or the Illinois & Michigan Canal. Similar events are held in the Netherlands, Austria, Canada, and sometimes Japan, but there are none in the U.S.
I think it would be a great way to use and publicize these historic and scenic resources during the winter when they are largely ignored (one may argue that much of the Hennepin Canal is largely ignored year-round). If the idea gains traction, I'll bet IDNR and the Illinois Greenways & Trails Council would be enthusiastic, although I doubt that they'd be able to contribute financially given current budget realities.
The dream of Illinoistocht is still in its infancy, but if you're interested in long-distance skating, keep an eye on the Web site.
* The League of Illinois Bicyclists questions the legality of these closings. Since the Hennepin Canal Trail was funded with $15.4 million in federal funds, the state is obligated to maintain it. Not only could Illinois retroactively lose that $15.4 million, but the Federal Highway Administration could cut off all transportation funding to the state.