Running uphill takes off in Norway

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Ski season is finally underway in the mountains, but while skiers at lower elevations wait for snow they’ve been using local slopes in new way — by running up them.

World Cup competition in Nordic skiing started at Beitostølen over the weekend, shortly after Norwegian athletes had gathered at the mountain resort to compete against each other.

Among them was Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, who was severely injured in a cycling accident last summer and is carefully making a comeback. Last year’s world sprint champion was delighted to place 10th in a race and hopes to be back in top form later this season.

In the meantime she’s been among those spending time this fall running up some of the steepest slopes around the country before the snow falls. The sport now known in Norway as a motbakkeløp has emerged as a trendy and challenging form of exercise and competition.

Runners literally run straight uphill, hoping to be the first to reach the top. More than 100 motbakkeløper have been arranged in Norway so far this year, and they’ve attracted top athletes like Jacobsen and runner Ingrid Kristiansen.

One event this fall was held at Wyllerløypa in Oslo’s Sørkedalen, once used as a downhill course in the Winter Olympics of 1952. Runners climbed nearly 400 meters during the uphill sprint and were rewarded with a panoramic view over Oslo, the fjord and the hills of Nordmarka.

Other events have been held at Stoltzekleiven in Bergen, in Loen and Luster, and all told, around 30,000 have taken part in events around the country.

“This was brutal,” Jacobsen told newspaper Aftenposten when it was over. “I got so stiff! But at least I wasn’t last.”

The trip back down the mountain is seen as the social part of the competition. One local arranger, Christian Prestegård, predicts there will be 125 uphill runs held in Norway next year.