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The American Birkebeiner Competing through grueling physical activity for thirty-four miles in one daylasting anywhere from two to eight hoursearning icy hair tear-filled eyes and stab wounds from polesdeveloping wet socks and runny nosesdigging down to every last bit of energy hill after hill amongst eight thousand others This is only a portion of what one would experience at the Birkebeiner also known as the Birke The Birke is a premier ski race in northern Wisconsin well-known all over the world and skied by a diverse group of people This ski race has a unique history and heritage drastically contrasting the first 1973 race and the more current Birkebeiner The first race of the American Birkebeiner originated from the Birkebeiner Rennet in Lillehammer Norway Norways Birkebeiner is a commemoration for the thirteenth century civil war Invaders attempted to capture an infant prince and heir to the throne in 1206 Two Viking warriors known as Birkebeiners for the birch bark leggings they wore rescued the baby and skied fifty-five kilometers to safety The infant later became a great Norwegian king Haakon Haakonson American Birkebeiner 2 The history of Haakon inspired the first Birkebeiner ski race in Norway in 1932 Norwegians still carry a pack weighing about as much as an eighteen-month old child in the World Loppets Norwegian Birkebeiner race from Rena to Lillehammer Johnson Bank American Birkebeiner 5 The first American Birkebeiner on the morning of February 24 1973 was not unlike any other in Hayward Wisconsin The town was oblivious to the history that was being made Kelly 8 Only thirty-five hearty skiers thirty-four men and one woman skied the fifty-two kilometer 1 kilometer 58 mile race bundled in woolen clothing Kuznia 1 Eighteen others skied in the shorter twenty-two kilometer women and juniors race The skiers met in Hayward at the Lumberjack Bowl on Lake Hayward American Birkebeiner 1 For some it was the first time they had ever been
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