Think birchbark leggings and skinny skis. And snow. Lots of snow. (Like today.)
In 1206, Birkebeiners whisked the 2-year-old Prince of Norway through mountains and forests to save his life. Since 1973, the event is marked in Wisconsin with a marathon ski race.
Mr. W is in there somewhere. We’d both tried doing the 54 kilometer (34 miles) American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race the year before. Back when I thought I was in shape and had handily finished a 10k.
My brother tried to warn me. He told me to sign up for the Korteloppet, the half-marathon, which he’d done the year before. He was going back to earn his Birkebeiner medal. I wanted one, too, not a mere Korteloppet ribbon.
Heck, no, I said. I can do it. (I seemed to forget that I’d been yanked from a 30-mile walk for hunger when I was 16 by a nurse who thought I’d overestimated my abilities.)
After tumbling down a hill and knocking myself in the head with a ski somewhere around the half-way point, I was ready to find the bus back. It was late in the day and I would have been pulled anyway. Mr. W made it three-quarters of the way before time ran short. Humbling.
Okay. We could blame the poor snow cover that year. Or our cheap no-wax (no grip, no go) skis.
Defeat is not in Mr. W’s vocabulary. He returned the next year with slick racer skis and came home with a medal. Me? I was home with a newborn. As good an excuse as any.
It was twenty-some years before I got my fast skinny skis; and no, I have no plans to sign up for the 41st annual Birkie later this month. They only take the first 10,000, anyway.