Updated: February 20, 2021 06:47 PM
Created: February 20, 2021 05:06 PM
For the first time in its 47 year history, the American Birkebeiner is being held virtually.
“I don't think we ever would have in our wildest dreams thought that we were going to have a virtual race,” Ben Popp, Executive Director of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation said. “But, it’s great to see people embrace it.”
The virtual race kicked off Saturday—offering participants the opportunity to ski, or partake in another sport like swimming or running, from wherever they are in the world—February 20th through February 28th.
“We are going to have a huge variety of people doing a wide variety of sports,” Popp said.
On Saturday, sisters Mary Laschansky, Carrie Kirkpatrick and Anne Moarn made the trip to Hayward to ski on the Birkebeiner’s original track, which was still set up this year for those who wanted to utilize it.
“It’s been a rough year for everybody, but to have an excuse to get out and exercise—it’s been good for the heart, good for the soul,” Kirkpatrick said.
All three of the sisters have skied some form of the Birkebeiner at least once, but this year held special meaning for them because they skied in memory of their father, who recently died of COVID-19.
“We have our dad’s initials on our boots,” Laschansky said. “He’s skiing with us today.”
Similar to the first ever American Birkebeiner—which began with just 35 skiers—there were far less skiers along the track Saturday than in past years. This was because each skier was expected to reserve a time slot to ski in advance. Additionally, there were no stations to stop at along the track to refuel and spectators were few and far between.
For this reason, Barb Oatman stepped up her efforts to support her husband, who skied the Birkebeiner for the 16th time on Saturday.
“I run support every year. I drop him off at the start, meet him at a certain point on the trail and make sure he’s okay and then at the finish of course for the great celebration,” Oatman said.
In addition to those who participated in Hayward Saturday, Popp said the race had 9,000 registered participants from all over the world.
“We have virtual skiers from Iceland and Norway and South America, so it’s really pretty cool,” Popp said.
Those who are participating in the virtual Birkebeiner are expected to track their own results and then submit those results online once they complete the race. There, they can see how they compared to other participants.