Updated: March 03, 2021 11:05 PM
Created: March 03, 2021 06:01 PM
This year marked the 47th American Birkiebeiner and it was one unlike any other. Organizers made a number of changes to assure racers still enjoyed a fun and competitive experience.
Typically a one day affair this year Birkie fever lasted five full days.
"[I] just have that really good feeling that comes with the season and you just feel so good, excited to race," Prince Haaken racer Grant Popp said.
Skiers were spread out in heats across the week for social distancing. Coming up from the Twin Cities David Olheiser said he enjoyed the change of pace despite missing the cheering crowd along the way.
"It's just completely different. I mean, it's so much more relaxed and just like, there's nobody in the woods, and just getting through the woods [is] totally different but still great," Olheiser said.
The course also underwent a change this year. It was made into a loop starting and ending at the American Birkebeiner Trailhead which shortened each event.
"It felt a little weird but it's the Birkie so it's really fun," Popp said.
14-year-old Grant Popp, the son of Birkebeiner Executive Director Ben Popp, was excited to take part in the long held Hayward tradition his dad help preserve during a pandemic.
Competiting in his second Prince Haaken 14K he said crossing the finish line was just as rewarding as the first time.
"It is so good," Popp said. "You just did this really hard thing, you feel so good, you had a really good time doing it [and] it's really fun."
The 2021 Birkie was soley a regional event, rather than international one, but still drew 500 to 1,500 skiers daily across the week.
"The experience is out on the trail this year," executive director Ben Popp said. "It's about accomplishing this huge athletic feat, and it inspires you to live an amazing lifestyle year round."
Additionally, hundreds more skiers chose to compete in the Birkie virtually this year.
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