Paavo Nurmi Marathon race report, 30th June 2012

Paavo Nurmi Marathon (Turku, Finland) Race report by Colin Dilks

I had heard of this city marathon a few years ago when I was in Finland and had arranged my summer holidays to coincide with the race this year.

Turku is a city on the south west coast of Finland and was home to Paavo Nurmi, the Olympic athlete and one of the ‘Flying Finns.’ Nurmi was the best middle and long distance runner in the word in the 1920s, winning  a total of nine gold and three silver medals in the 12 events in which he competed at the Olympic Games from 1920 to 1928. In particular, he won five gold medals at the 1924 Summer Olympics held in Paris, which is still the most athletics gold medals at one Olympics in the history of the Games. In true Finnish character during his competitive running career, which lasted from about 1919 to 1934, Nurmi earned a reputation for speaking very little off the track, earning him the nickname “Great Silent One” (Suuri vaikenija) from some contemporary Finns. An illustration of this was his two-word reply to a congratulatory speech during his 1925 tour of the United States which consisted of simply “Thank you!”

Anyway, back to my running. The marathon is a two lap route starting in the city centre and heading out to the rural island of Ruusalo. I had checked some of the route the week before and was pleasantly surprised that about half of this city marathon is actually run through fields and woods and could not be described as ‘flat’ – more like ‘rolling’ I would say.

On race day the organisation (as expected from Finns) was perfect. It is a relatively small field of runners and both marathon and half-marathon runners start together. I enjoyed my first half of the route but once the half-marathoners had finished I found it tough going in the second half and those ‘rolling’ hills seemed to have become steeper but I kept plodding on – I was very glad to see the turning point of the second lap and to be on the return leg. The weather had become chillier too and rain was on its way, so I thought I better get a move on but I found it very tough, perhaps my legs were still tired from the Lochalsh Dirty 30 three weeks before. I spent most of the time stuffing sugar tablets in my mouth and at one point I had white froth coming back out! Not a pretty sight but I was past caring! Anyway, on the way back the crowd was very encouraging (well, as enthusiastic as Finns can get – they are a pretty reserved bunch!) But I had met a couple of Belgian supporters earlier in the day and they were particularly vocal!

So I managed to cross the line at 3.46.06 which is a good half hour less than my marathon pb so I was a bit disappointed. However, I have just looked at the results while writing this and I came 64th overall and 17th in the Male V45 category so that has cheered me up a bit!

Having raced in Iceland, Spain, Hungary, France, Scotland and other parts of England I always find it interesting how countries differ in their races. Finland is noticeably less exuberant than, for example, Barcelona (my favourite marathon). I had collected a race shirt with my number at the start of the race and then was presented with a medal and another t-shirt with ‘Finisher’ on the front – two shirts in one race, that’s a first for me! But the most memorable moment came when I then went for my post-marathon fill of carbs of cakes and biscuits. There were none! Not a carb in sight. Instead the Finns were tucking in to cold, sliced cucumber, whole tomatoes and pickled gherkins! There was no way I was going to have SALAD after running a marathon! I wanted REAL FOOD… so I headed to a Hersbergers take away and ordered a cheeseburger and fries proudly wearing my ‘Finisher’ t-shirt.  


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  1. Well done Colin on another great performance and subsequent race report.

    You’re showing the way for competing in endurance events and I’d love to see the comparison between John Hurse and yourself in who has ‘raced’ the most miles. (Maybe something we can check at the end of the year ;-) ).

    And bravo on your choice of post-race grub.

  2. You’ve got to be one of our most travelled runners Colin, you get everywhere!!

    I like the term rolling, as people are no longer sucked into a false sense of security by refering to a race as “undulating” any more. I’m definitly going to use it to avoid putting people off tougher courses, so be warned !

    • Diane on 30th July 2012 at 11:53
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    Well done Colin.

    • david rowe on 30th July 2012 at 17:23
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    well done Colin, great race and report. You did well swerving that salad stuff, never done anyone any good.

    • Sean Kelly on 30th July 2012 at 19:36
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    Three weeks after a 30 mile race you run a marathon with ‘rolling’ terrain too! How do you manage to get your legs back into any kind of recovered state to do that? Amazing. You must have some sort of super-hero power. I enjoyed your report immensely, some fascinating historical facts about the great Paavo Nurmi.

    • John JH on 30th July 2012 at 20:54
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    You get to some great races Colin, well done on another excellent run & report.

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