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PAAVO NURMI

DOMINATING DISTANCE RUNNING AT THREE OLYMPICS, THE FLYING FINN TRAINED HIMSELF, RACKED UP 22 WORLD RECORDS AND ALMOST ALWAYS LET HIS ACHIEVEMENTS ON THE TRACK DO THE TALKING
Left: The Golden God - Nurmi on his way to another winner’s medal at the Paris Olympics, 1924

Among the host of qualifications needed to become a Running Icon, one stands out above all others - the ability to change the sport for the better. Hundreds of great runners have taken part in the sport during periods of great upheaval and change, but to be an icon takes more than just being part of a movement. To be a true Running Icon, you need to head it.

Paavo Nurmi didn’t so much lead athletics to a better place, as grab it by the throat and drag it there. He was fuelled by a desire to test the boundaries of the human body, and in doing so he won as many track and field medals as any Olympian in history. And had it not been for the nervousness of a Finnish doctor, he might just have beaten everyone…

Nurmi was born in Turku, Finland, in 1897, growing up with an athletic hero in the shape of Hannes Kolehmainen, a man who won three distance running gold medals in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics.

Born one of 12 children, Nurmi’s father died while the boy was still young, forcing him to go out and find work to support the family. The tragic events would change his life. The town was hilly and young Paavo got a job as a delivery boy, pushing carts up the hills, inadvertently providing a perfect endurance training base.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Men's Running - April 2019
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