Kristiansen's stride at this gentle speed is a light-footed shuffle, and the motion of her arms has more than a trace of the skier's backward push. She is 5'6" and 106 pounds, with the leanness produced by 100 hilly miles per week. Another consequence of such stress has been amenorrhea, the infrequent menstrual periods experienced by many gymnasts, ballet dancers and runners. For years she had been used to going months without a period. Thus, in 1983, she was ripe for the surprise of her life.
"In January I won the Houston Marathon," says Kristiansen. "I thought I recovered well, but I got beat by some runners I really shouldn't have lost to in 10-and 15-kilometer road races." Then she staggered home a bedraggled 35th in the world cross-country race in Gateshead, England, an event in which she had been sixth the year before.
Kristiansen's coach, Johan Kaggestad, was mystified. "My wife said, 'She must be pregnant. Ask her.' It was Ingrid's birthday and she was miserable, so I didn't. But the next day on the plane I brought it up, and she laughed and said, 'No, no.' But I said maybe it would be good to take a test." A week passed. "I answered the phone, and she was crying, not only that she was pregnant, but that she was five months pregnant."
The tears were of shock, not dismay. She wanted a baby, but she wanted to run, too. Kristiansen trained as much as she could before the birth. "When she got so round she couldn't run, she swam and biked and walked for hours," Kaggestad says. In effect she had the luxury of a four-month pregnancy.
Gaute was born Aug. 13, 1983. Kristiansen ran her first lowkey race on Oct. 1. In January, five months after delivering, she returned to the Houston Marathon, which she had won the year before while three months pregnant, and won it again, in 2:27:51, her best by 2:18. Now she was really on her way.
The runner was born on March 21, 1956, in Trondheim, in western Norway, about 240 miles north of Oslo. Her family name was Christensen. Her father worked in the oil business. Her mother kept their home. She has one brother, four years older. None was interested in organized sports, but her Norwegian birthright was a vigorous life. Her parents had to lock her skis and running shoes in a cupboard after dinner or she would be out past midnight, roving the country.
"In school," she says, "the boys did sports and the girls watched. But I was always more like a boy. I ran and played soccer. It was difficult. I had no good girlfriends until five or six years ago."
Kristiansen has an extraordinarily expressive face in conversation. Her forehead can furrow, her eyes squint and her mouth screw up as if her passing thoughts were squirts of lemon juice. It seems a manner formed in and by solitary effort, without much regard for what others thought of it.
She preferred skiing but couldn't deny her running talent. In 1971, at age 15, she came out of the woods to run 4:22.6 for the 1,500 meters, and made the Norwegian team for the European Championships in Helsinki. Her roommate, three years older, was a miler named Grete Andersen, who later would revolutionize women's marathoning under her married name of Waitz. "I was amazed to see Ingrid, morning and evening, doing pushups, lots of them," says Waitz. "That was for skiing. Running was obviously secondary to her."
In 1976 she was an alternate on the Norwegian Olympic ski team, and in 1978 she finished 15th in the 20-kilometer race at the world championships. "Not a good result," she says now. "Because the expectations of Norwegians in skiing are high." In skiing, she acquired the reputation of a born second.