Birken, or Birkebeineren are three annual sporting events, mostly for regular people, a run, a cross country ski race, and a mountain bike race, that are made to honour an historic event, the rescuing of the baby Haakon Haakonsson from rivals in the Norwegian civil war area. Therefore the participants have to carry a weight of 3,5kg (about the size of a small baby). The ski and bike race start in the city of Rena, and all the races end in Lillehammer. (LINK)
The events are very popular, and the ski and bike races are usually fully booked just minutes after the release of the tickets. Thousands compete mostly against them selves to get to Lillehammer as quickly as possible. It’s become a very popular event for office and management employees, and it’s said to be a great thing to put on your CV. It’s not short races, so to participate and actually finish you have to put a lot of time and effort into getting ready.
The run is hardly mentioned in the press, but the bike and ski races are followed by the media. The bike race is in August, and over the last two years the weather have not cooperated, with rain and mud, making the participants soaked in mud and sheep droppings, making people sick because they get this lovely slush in their mouth too. The ski race is in March, and is followed by NRK with both cameras on the ground and helicopter. Professional skiers start first in their own heat, with lots of honor in winning. The run is in September.
I have never participated, and I never will, but I’ve watched some of the bike race, since I live very close to the track, and our “hytte” is even closer.