One week ago, Lisa Sunderman was in Italy competing in a famed 70-kilometer cross-country ski race, the Marcialonga. That was followed by a week of more cross-country and downhill skiing in the Italian Alps, sightseeing in Rome and eating pasta and seafood on the Tyrrhenian Sea.
None of which stopped Sunderman, who lives in Spokane, from getting back in time for the 41st Langlauf cross-country ski race. She returned home Saturday at 4 p.m. and was at the starting line on Mount Spokane by 10 a.m. Sunday.
“We came back for Langlauf,” she said at the finish of the 10-kilometer race Sunday. “This is our community. Everybody comes and skis. We just love to be part of it.”
And despite being jet-lagged, and presumably tired after a week of hard skiing, Sunderman won her age group with a time of 40 minutes and 14 seconds.
After a year’s absence due to the pandemic, Langlauf returned with style and under sunny skies; 198 people registered for the race and 178 finished, said race director Tim Ray. Top honors went to Tyler Reinking, who finished the 10-kilometer race in a time of 28:15 . Rebecca Dussault, a former U.S. Olympian, was the top female finisher with a time of 32:29.
After the race, participants, volunteers and spectators enjoyed soup and coffee provided by sponsors. And more than $5,000 in prizes were given out during the award ceremony.
Conceived as Bloomsday on snow, the 10k classic skiing race started in 1980 and was the brainchild of two elite athletes looking for close-to-home competition – while also introducing others to the sport. The race has continued for all but three of the years since, Ray said. The two other cancellations were due to a lack of snow.
A week before this year’s race only 84 people had signed up, a big drop from previous years. However a late surge of registrants, including 20 Sunday morning, brought overall participation up to where it has been in recent years, Ray said.
And while the pandemic shuttered the race in 2021, it did bring at least one family to the sport – and event – in 2022.
Mac Anderson, Jenna Anderson and 6-year-old Luke Anderson were all enjoying the sunshine and soup after the race Sunday. This was the family’s first year at Langlauf, and their second season cross-country skiing. They picked up the sport during the pandemic as a way to stay healthy and get outside, Jenna said.
“I think if it wasn’t for COVID we might not have found (cross-country skiing),” Mac said.
Their story isn’t unique. Pandemic closures pushed record numbers of people outside and into cross-country skiing, a sport that had seen slow declines in participation over the years.
That hasn’t slowed down, said Robin DeRuwe, the owner of Fitness Fanatics. The Spokane Valley-based store, which sells and rents cross-country skis and other winter equipment and helps sponsor Langlauf, had its busiest December and January ever this season.
Back at the finish line as competitors continued to cross, Sunderman summed up her thoughts and explained why she’d made a point of returning from Italy to be at Langlauf.
“It’s important to our community,” she said. “I mean, look at everybody.”