The Day before- Fri. 15-Mar

I had just returned to Oslo after 2 weeks further north. There hadn't been much fresh snow in 3 weeks and conditions didn't look that promising but I took the subway (T-bane) to Sognsvann and started skiing towards Holmenkollen. I soon got on a trail with very good conditions. I was going to try to scout out a viewing spot for Saturdays 50 km. I didn't know where the race course was but I guessed I would cross it on my way. Sure enough, soon I found a trail marked 2x25 km. There was also a 20/45 km distance sign so I decided to try the final 5 km to the finish at the stadium. Very soon there were some very serious hills! They do 50 km of this in 2.5 hrs!? At one spot I stumbled and then noticed the TV cameras! OH NO! I hope they weren't broadcasting pre-race course views. "And here's a Canadian tourist falling on the course!"

Cresting one hill I got a fantastic view of the city and the fjord beyond, I wonder if the racers enjoy the view? A little further I heard some music and when I crested the next hill there was the stadium, the jump tower and the king's statue (the late King Olav skiing with his dog). Wow! This must be an emotional experience for the racers. Winding my way down the finish line was a little confusing since there are underpasses, overpasses and a few loops through the stadium area. I also saw a few practice jumps.
MÅL - Finish line in stadium

Then I found my way up to the Skistua (caffee) at Frognerseter. Then I headed back to find a viewing spot. On the way I passed another part of the Holmenkollen tradition, camping overnight before the 50 km race. Lots of people were setting up tents along the course, some wearing traditional Telemark costumes - wool breaches, sweaters and the broad rimmed hats. I read that the night before the 5-mil during the 1994 Olympics that over 10000 people camped in the woods at Lillehammer.
Tents along trail

I found a spot near the 20/45 km point then headed back to Sognsvann. I should have scouted out the women's 30 km course too. I also should have got a race number list.

THE DAY - Sat. 16-Mar. The 5 Mil men's and 3 Mil women's:

The mens race started at 0930. I knew the race wouldn't reach my spot until about an hour later. I had no trouble getting up to the fence at my chosen spot. It wasn't perfect since there were a few bushes blocking the view and it was a relatively flat section. The other side of the track had a better view and hundreds of people gathered there. Some had campstoves for hot drinks. Some may have been drinking stuff stronger than cocoa or solberry but most were very well behaved. Mostly good, clean, family fun.

Then the first lap came by. The crowd cheers for EVERYBODY - HEIA, HEIA! I didn't have a list so I didn't know who was who. But when I heard some extra loud HEIAs and a guy with a yellow bib with no number (like the yellow jersey in the Tour de France) I knew who that was!

Every so often race officials would come by to make sure the track was clear. One Finnish fan did wander on to the track. One female official dressed as a Norwegian elf (nisse) gave him a hug and got him off the track- interesting methods of crowd control!

When the first lap had all passed they opened the fence to let people through so I skied around to warm up and look at some of the fans. Up the trail was Team-Vitamex dressed up in traditional 1890 garb. They had bibs on with the motto "Så gi ham en stav" (So give him a pole). This refers to the 1982 World Championship relay when Oddvar Brå broke a pole near the end of the race. The TV announcer shouted this phrase and the whole country echoed it. Brå got a pole and tied the race.

Then the second lap comes by. Again the yellow bib gets a big HEIA but also number 81 (Erling Jevne) gets a big HEIA too. Most people were listening to radio reports (and some had cell-phones) so they knew the standings. Then the last lap passes, the fences are opened and people wander off. Maybe I can find the womens course?
Bjørn Daehlie coming
Bjørn Daehlie going

I head off towards the stadium and soon find the trail blocked by a fence and hundreds of fans. I bushwack a bit to get a better view. This must be one of the more popular spots. It is at the top of a brutal climb, followed by a very steep downhill with a complete hairpin turn. This makes most alpine slopes look flat! There was a TV camera set up here. There was also a 10 piece brass band playing (no tuba though- the band had skied in)!!

The women came whizzing by. They made parallel turns on that hairpin turn better than most alpine skiers can do!

On Sunday I didn't try to watch the relays- there was only 5 km of track to get a viewing spot on. I went on a longer tour through Nordmarka from the Stryken railway station. Somewhere south of Kikutstua I saw the 12 km point (turn-around point) of the 25 km lap. It looked like a lot of people had camped here. I read one estimate that 3000 people slept in the woods Friday night. "Marka had a smell of bonfires, home cooking and universal klister" (I didn't have to use klister)

Some people from Edmonton had seen the mens relay from the stadium area. They said it was mostly a race betweens Norwegian teams 1 and 2.

Smirre had a bad cold and didn't race. There were 2 ski kings crowned. Björn Daehlie for winning the World Cup and Erling Jevne for winning his first "5 mil".

This more than just a race, it's part of Norwegian culture. One of the greatest shows on earth and it's free to watch. Except if you want a stadium seat- but most of the action is out in the woods anyways.

(Mil is usually translated as a Norwegian "mile" == 10 km. The "5 Mil" is considered to be the ultimate test)

Hints for future Oslo visitors- I finally found a more optimum bus/T-bane route from Sognsvann to Haraldsheim Youth Hostel. Take the T-bane to Tåsen. Walk down the ramp to the Ring Road and take bus 32/62 to Grefsen Station. This was much quicker than taking the T-bane all the way downtown and tram 10 to Grefsen. Oslo has a very good subway/bus/tram system.

Excuse my poor Norwegian spelling

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