Legends of the Trail - Page 4
Bjorklund nears the finish line of the 1981 Pikes Peak Marathon, setting a record that still stands.
Would Give Back Her record
When Lynn Bjorklund was a kid, she had no female peers in her Los Alamos, New Mexico, neighborhood. She instead played with her older brothers and their friends. “I was littler and slower, always sprinting to keep up,” she says. When she was about 12, Bjorklund’s brothers joined the high- school cross-country team and their playtime pursuits homed in on running, “We’d run for hours on our local trails.”
Though the 55-year-old blazed women’s history all over tracks, roads and trails in the 1970s and ’80s, she is probably best known for running 9:08.6 for 3K on the track in high school. This national high-school girls’ record—set in 1975—still stands.
In 1981, Bjorklund made a deep mark on the trail-running world when she flew through Colorado’s Pikes Peak Marathon fast enough to set both ascent and marathon speed records. Her marathon record of 4:15:18 is now 31 years old, and her ascent record of 2:33:31 was only just surpassed at the 2012 Pikes Peak Ascent by Kim Dobson’s 2:24:58.
“I suppose my childhood had all the right factors, including pedestrian play at Los Alamos’ altitude,” explains Bjorklund when asked about what led to her standout day on Pikes. “As for that specific race, it was quite simple. I had trained more than ever.”
“Let me stop here,” she continues, “I trained too much. It made for one exceptional race, but I spiraled into years of chronic overuse injuries that took away my ability to run, as well as the joy of it.” What ailed her after the 1981 Pikes Peak Marathon? “My ankle, my foot, my knee, nothing singular or specific. If I could replay race day, I’d give that record back in exchange for a life of healthy running. It wasn’t worth it.”
Despite this challenging historical relationship with trail running, Bjorklund remains enamored with the sport. “My body disallows every-day running, but I mix in other sports so that I can be as active as I want. I am fortunate that i can still participate in the occasional shorter-distance trail race.” This fall, she placed second at New Mexico’s Pajarito Trail Fest 15-miler. “I’ve fallen in love with triathlon, cross-country skiing, hiking and backpacking over the years. But if I could run more, it’s perhaps all I would do.”
Though her work took her out of her hometown for a while, she’s now back in Los Alamos and working as a Santa Fe national Forest recreation manager. her work days are largely spent in the outdoors, “I help restore and maintain trails and plan events taking place in the forest, such as trail races.”
She’s still a fan of the mountain-running scene, too. Last summer, Bjorklund reached out to congratulate Dobson after her record ascent. Says Dobson, “Lynn is a legend. I began running on Pikes Peak in 2009, and am in perpetual awe of what she did. It’s amazing that the mountain has now connected us.”
Bjorklund offers up advice for female runners who are pushing their training and racing limits, “eat real food, enough of it. rest more. Keep your period. Train under a coach. Don’t betray the long view for a single event. Train and race with enough caution so that you’ll still be healthy in 20 years. Find your worth inside of you, not in something external like a record or someone’s opinion of you.”
— 1974 > Lynn Bjorklund wins the USA Track and Field Cross Country Championships for the first of two times.
— 1975 > Bjorklund runs a 9:08.6 for 3K at an international track meet in what’s now the Ukraine. This national high-school girls’ record still stands.
— 1976 > Bjorklund places seventh at the International Association of Athletics Federation World Cross Country Championships.
— 1981 > At age 24, Bjorklund wins the Pikes Peak Marathon in course-record time, also setting the (now-previous) ascent course record in the process.
— 1997 > On a backpacking trip in New Mexico, Bjorklund witnesses a small- plane crash and runs 18 miles to the trailhead to report the emergency. Her swift action is credited as lifesaving to the two injured and burned passengers.