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Digital Subscriptions > Men's Running > April 2019 > PAAVO NURMI

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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About Men's Running

I started running in the mid 1980s. Ask anyone around at the time and they’ll tell you it was the heyday of British middle and long distance running. I got swept along by the Coe versus Ovett battle of the Moscow Olympics and the then addition of Cram for LA in 1984. Britons ruled the world and I loved every second of the battles, the highs, the lows, the medals and the media. These guys were my inspiration and I wanted to be them. They were the reason I started running and it was no surprise that my chosen events were 800 and 1500m. That I was best at these was just an added bonus. There are so many influential figures in our brilliant sport. Some are well known, others less so. So we decided to choose our favourites so that you could also get a little sprinkling of inspiration. Whether it’s Dean Karnazes eating pizza by the roadside or Ron Hill running every day for more than 50 years, we know there’ll be something for everyone. Read and get inspired and hit the road for your next run!