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The early history of Norseman Xtreme Triathlon

Triathlon was an almost dead sport in Norway at the end of the 1990’s. Only 9 Norwegians did an ironman-distance in the year 2000. In July 2001, Paal Hårek Stranheim (Hårek) and Bent Olav Olsen (later the founder of Oslofjord Triatlon, the largest triathlon-club in Norway), discussed what could be done to make the sport grow again.

Bent wanted to start this wonderful club only for triathletes. Hårek wanted to invent a unique competition. Hårek described the outline at email during this day. Bent did not fancy it too much, because “he would never get fit enough to do such a race”. This was how Hårek described the idea:


“I want to create a completely different race, make it a journey through the most beautiful nature of Norway, let the experience be more important than the finish time, and let the participants share their experience with family and friends as their own support. Let the race end at the top of a mountain, that way it will be the hardest ironman-distance on earth. The idea is that since Norway have almost none active triathletes, we will need to create a race that attracts German triathletes first, and then Norwegians will discover that they are missing a great opportunity to have fun.”


From there it was a play at the map. Mountain Gaustatoppen is the most beautiful mountain in Norway and an obvious destination. It is not too far from the fjords in western Norway. The Hardangerfjord and the little village Eidfjord soon turned up as a good option. Further north in Norway, the water is too cold for a long swim.


It took two years of planning before 21 men could jump out of the boat and into the Hardangerfjord at July 19, 2003. The organizing committee now consisted of Hårek, Hege, Guy and Fredrik. Guy Huste developed the graphics, logo, layout and web of the event. Fredrik Mandt was the handyman and testpilot, he even measured the distance at the mountain path using 10 meters of rope. Hege Hansane (Hårek’s wife at this time) was responsible for contact with participants and book keeping. As Hårek, Guy and Fredrik would do the race themselves, at race day the race direction was left to Hege, to her big surprise. She was supported by their kids, Rebekka and William, and Hårek’s sister.

We were excited that so many as 21 turned up to do the race. The start field was a wonderful group of people; half of them were new to triathlon. The water was warm, the weather was friendly and Christian Houge-Thiis won at 12 hours 48 minutes. Fredrik and Hårek were followed by national broadcasting. You can see the 5 minutes tv-report at YouTube. It gives you a good impression of the first year. The 19 that reached the mountain top were given the black t-shirts at the ceremony the day after, with the mountain in the background. (legg inn bildet).

The local communities both in Eidfjord and Rjukan gave the event a warm welcome. It was. In front of these were Rolf Yngvar Jenssen in Eidfjord and Andres Setre in Rjukan. It was obvious that we had chosen the right route, for the beautiful scenery and the beauty of the people that lived at both ends of it. Almost too good to be true, the race distance was measured with the equipment of the Norwegian running association (Kondis), and the bike leg turned out to be 44 meters short and the run leg 30 meters short.

HP (Hewlett Packard) gave generous financial support during the first years of the event. There would be no Norseman today without their support.

As the first year was successful, more people came to help with the organisation.

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