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Events & Results
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Motivations to race Birken are changing

It’s not the Birken medal they’re chasing; what the young skiers share from training and preparations shows more than lycra and lactate values.

Photo: Modica/NordicFocus

Ever since the pandemic, Birken has experienced changes, both in which age groups are growing the most and in the motivation to complete the 54-kilometer long-distance cross-country skiing race from Rena to Lillehammer.

“What we are seeing is that the youngest age groups are the ones growing the most,” says Randi Bolstad, the communication and marketing manager at Birken, to Langrenn.com, and elaborates:

“In recent years, the largest classes in the Birkebeinerrennet have traditionally been 45+, but this year, the largest classes are among young adults aged 25-40. It is especially pleasing that the largest women’s class is K25, i.e., those from 25 to 30 years old.”

Bolstad highlights that the trend towards the youngest classes has been evident since the pandemic. Still, it is particularly nice that this age group continues to grow.

“We have more participants in all classes except for M40-45. The youngest classes are growing the most, at the same time as we have 40 percent debutants, so it also shows that the young people who participated last year are bringing their friends this year. We think that’s very great,” Bolstad says.

Seeking genuine experiences and community 

Bolstad notices a change in who wants to participate in Birken but also sees a shift in motivation.

While many associate Birken with a heavy focus on results and times, she sees a clear shift in recent years and that the turn seems to come with the youth.

“Now we see that the participants, especially the young participants, to a much lesser extent state that results and rankings are the motivation for setting Birken as a training goal. There is a clear change from before. Before, there was much more focus on the times and results,” says Bolstad.

She believes that other values are attracting the youth to Birken.

“We hear from the young people that they seek what is real and down-to-earth, such as hiking in the mountains on wild snow and traditional Norwegian experiences. And they want to do it together with others,” says Bolstad, and continues:

“Many of them are very active on various social media, and from the posts they share about their preparations towards Birken, we see that there are ski trips where they take time to stop and buy cinnamon buns at the cabins in Marka.”

Birkebeiner medal still holds a high value 

Even though Bolstad now sees a clear development away from the focus on results, there is no doubt that the medal still holds a high value and is a motivational factor for many.

“There will always be those concerned about the medal and who are triggered by achieving that. That is much of what characterized those from 40 and up, but which now seems to be less important for the younger ones. However, many who start participating in Birken wish to set new goals over time. There we see that for some of them, the medal is precisely such a goal,” says Bolstad, and adds:

“Moreover, the medal is indeed a tradition that Birken has, which makes Birken different from other events.”

The Birkebeinerrennet is scheduled for Saturday, March 16. The 54-kilometer-long race from Rena to Lillehammer is organized this year for the 84th time. Since the first Birkebeinerrennet in 1932, over 400.000 participants have completed the race.

Are you interested in long-distance skiing? Click HERE and read more.

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