|Some of my favorite people on earth|
Mother Race; Spirit People
Think about the few people in your life that guide you to be a better person with every encounter and each conversation. I crave time with these role models for life. They share their rare, beautiful personality with the world, leaving inspired people in their wakes. I once heard the term “Spirit People,” and I think it applies here.
During my life, I’ve belonged to many teams, occupations and organizations. “Spirit People” can be found within any group. But rare is the group that is predominantly composed of these wonderful people. The Birchleggings Club seems all Spirit to me. Birchleggers are Birkie skiers who have skied 20 or more American Birkebeiners.
The Birkie is hard. The hills are monsters. The weather can border on dangerous. The outfits are not glamorous. Just getting to the starting line is an immense, uncomfortable challenge. Getting to the finish line twenty or more times during peak flu season is improbable. This “Mother Race” filters out the usual fair-weather, show-off-your-muscles-in-a-cute outfit, pace-obsessed endurance-tattooed crowd.
The result is a concentration of all that is good in the sport of cross country skiing, maybe in America – a crowd strong on flavor and spiced with the knowledge that one day we will no longer be able to cross that finish line. The entire club of Birchleggers is composed of my “Spirit People.”
I’ve attended the annual Birchleggings breakfast eight times now, the first seven as the skiing wife of an official Birchlegger. This year, I earned my twenty year award and the honor of belonging to this astounding group of people. I’ve shed tears of joy and appreciation at all of these breakfasts. The stories of the founders, the trials of the aging skiers, the sadness of the death or decline of many a skiing friend – all are both harsh reminders of our mortality along with joyful inspiration for what remains possible.
This year, I experienced the magic of the 20th Birkie. My knee was painful and swollen-straight for the week of the race. It made no sense to start the race last Saturday, but the tenacity of the Spirit People and the Mother Race took me all the way to the finish line. I skied down Main Street with tears of joy and pride. It was a goal that I had been working toward since one gray, snowy February Saturday in 1989. I feel filled up with spirit.