Two framed certificates hang inside Arve and Ingrid Kristiansen's front door in suburban Oslo. One, a print of a dark and tossing sea submerging two struggling figures, tells how Arve saved a two-year-old boy from drowning in 1966, when he was 12. The other states that a grove of trees in Israel has been named for Ingrid, in thanks for her demonstrating last year in favor of free emigration for Soviet Jews.
Ten seconds in this house and you know these people help out when they're needed.
Kristiansen has been painting a ceiling. Her face, jeans, sweatshirt, glasses and short tawny hair show points of white. She leads her guests past a room filled with blond lumber and plaster dust. Arve is there, a tan, bearded man in orange overalls. "It's going to be a workshop," he says. He has built much of their furniture, as well as the sauna. "You have to do something to keep your feet on the ground, something besides reading and thinking about Ingrid's running."
Arve spends two weeks a month here in Oslo. The other two weeks he is on oil drilling platforms in the North Sea, working for Statoil, the exploring arm of the Norwegian Oil Company.
There are balloons tied to the kitchen curtain rods, left over from their son Gaute's birthday party. Gaute, 3, is quiet and observant, with hair as white as linen. His mother holds him on her hip for a moment, gazing at their hillside view of pines, tile roofs and, beyond, the Oslo Fjord, reflecting clouds.
Like Joan Benoit Samuelson, one of her few real rivals in marathoning, Kristiansen is a domestic fury. She weaves rugs on a 30-year-old loom. She knits, crochets and makes many of Gaute's clothes. She bakes. She puts up preserves, and was disappointed that this year the wild blueberries were few. She reads. A large anthology of Pearl Buck novels is open on the coffee table.
"I'm kind of spoiled," she says. "From Oslo, I can fly to any track in Europe in a couple of hours. I can run. And then I can rush home."
Such quick trips have yielded incomparable performances. She won the 1985 London Marathon in 2:21:06, the fastest time ever by a woman. Last July, on her home track in Bislett Stadium, she covered 10,000 meters in 30:13.74, a staggering 45.68 seconds better than her own world record. In August, she flew to Stockholm and cut nearly 11 seconds from Zola Budd's 5,000-meter world record with 14:37.33. No other runner, male or female, has ever held the 5,000, 10,000 and marathon records at the same time.
Now she nears a historic barrier. In the Chicago marathon this weekend, weather cooperating, she intends to become the first woman to break 2 hours and 20 minutes, a time that for years separated the good from the world class among male marathoners.
Kristiansen takes a long training run once a week, and on this day she begins it by wading through wet ferns in a neighbor's backyard to a steep trail going up her hillside. This she climbs for a mile to Oslo's spectacular Holmenkollen ski jump. Before the first snows, the Holmenkollen championship cross-country ski course is a narrow, sandy road. Kristiansen and an old friend, Oslo city councilman and former Olympic 1,500-meter runner Arne Kvalheim, go easily at about seven minutes per mile over undulant hills, twittering like birds about the great ski races that have hallowed this ground.