The 54K Birkie marathon races is one of the largest marathon ski races in North America.  The late Tony Wise who looked to his Norwegian heritage and patterned the ski marathon after the Birkebeiner Rennet, which had been held in Norway since 1932, founded the American Birkebeiner in 1973. Both events honor and re-create a historic Norwegian event when in 1206, two warrior soldiers, called “Birkebeiners” because of the birch-bark leggings they wore, skied infant Prince Haakon to safety during the Norwegian civil war. Prince Haakon subsequently became King of Norway, and the Birkebeiner soldiers became a Norwegian symbol of courage, perseverance and character in the face of adversity.

The 54k Berkie Skate is a long race to begin with and in 2001, the race turned out to be even more of a challenge.  The night before the race, it snowed approximately a foot.  The new snow made the trail incredibly soft, and for the skate skiers, of which I was one, it was like skiing in sand for 54k.   This led to the top men’s overall time being 2:32:55 which was on average a full thirty minutes longer than the average top times for the race.  In other words, in years past, and in years to come, the top times for the elite racers range from 1:57:55 to 2:04:21 – but in this year it took the world’s top competitors an additional thirty minutes to complete the race.  My performance was anything but word class, but it was a great day.  We arrived late just as they were taking down the starting gate due to all the snow on the road and completed some six hours later.  I look forward to doing the Berkie again someday.