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Have you ever heard of the American Birkebeiner?

If not, consider checking it out! The American Birkebeiner (or Birkie) is the largest cross-country ski marathon race in North America. The Birkie attracts skiers with different ability levels from all over the world. Olympians and international teams participate in this event. This year 2018 Olympic Gold winner Kikkan Randall raced in the Birkie as she came in second in her ranking. Kikkan and Diggins won the United States’ first ever crosscountry skiing gold medal at the Winter Olympics in women’s team sprint.

The main events are the 50 km (31 mi) freestyle and the 55 km (34 mi) classic races, and the 29K (18mi) Kortelopet. The Birkie course is full of hills and is recognized as one of the most difficult cross country ski marathon courses in the world. Each year more than 10,000 skiers participate in the Birke and Kortelopet events. This year Mary and Jerry were two of those participants who skied 46th annual Kortelopet and Birkebeiner held on February 21 and 22, 2020.

The race starts in a little town called Cable, Wisconsin. It continues on through the forests, up and down hills, across several highways, and across lake Hayward. The race continues over the international bridge and ends on the main street in Hayward. Crowds of spectators line up on each side of the street to cheer on participants of all rankings.

Mary and Jerry began skiing the Birkie in the early 1980’s. They took a few years off (26 to be exact) then the Birkie fever hit them again in 2018 and they are back!

Jerry skied the Birkie classic 55K and said, “It could not have been a better day to ski the Birkie in the sunlight!” Jerry is nearing his 10th Birkie marathon and wants to complete ten before his 60th birthday. Go Jerry!

Mary skied the 29K Korte this year. She was presented with a challenge two days before the event when one of her skis broke! “I thought it would be too much of a challenge to ski with my old 1980’s skis. Then I remembered how I skied 3 Birkies in the 80’s with these old skis, I can do a Korte today!” Mary told herself. The trails were fun, fast, and the hills were furious. “I feel very blessed to be in good health to complete this event.” Mary has completed 3 Birkies and this year completed her 4th Kortelopet. 

If cross country skiing is a hobby of yours, definitely consider checking out the American Birkebeiner. It is a thrilling experience that you get to share with skiers from all over the world! Mary and Jerry would love to answer any questions you have about the American Birkebeiner cross country marathon!

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