#AtoZChallenge – Letter F – Flying Finn


When we talk about athletes in the first half of the 20th century, it has to be with a certain sense of awe. They did not have any of the modern instruments of practice or modern technology to assist them with improvements to their technique. Yet they were fitter, and always made great efforts to best themselves. And they were fiercely competitive to boot.

There was a great athelete from Finland who was called ‘Flying Finn’. Paavo Nurmi was his name. Such was his competitive streak that he is the only runner ever to hold the world record in the 5000m, 10,000m and mile races. Interestingly, he never lost a single race in cross country and 10,000 m races in his career. The 10 Olympic gold medals that he won between 1920 and 1928 is testament to his greatness.

The Flying Finn’s life is a great inspiration, especially the way he went about augmenting his skills. Once in the army, he is said to have raced with a rifle on his shoulder and a sandbag on his back! He also used to run behind trains, holding on to the back bumper in an effort to increase the reach of his legs (Isn’t that awesome? Just imagine how many times he would have lost his grip and fell!). He used to wear a stopwatch on his wrist while running so as to pace himself uniformly throughout the race. Once he started using this, he was breaking world-records. The moment he realized that his opponents would not be able to outrun him, no matter how hard they tried, he was racing against his watch bettering his own marks. These are lessons which modern athletes would do well to learn. This is what dedication, commitment and self-improvement is all about.

The unassuming person that Nurmi was, he often remarked that he got too much attention and credit than he deserved. I disagree – Paavo Nurmi was perhaps the greatest athelete in the pre-war era on an equal footing with Jesse Owens. The scales would just tilt in favor of Nurmi for the monstrosity of the efforts that he put in.

Written as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge – http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/