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Records as Toys

Nurmi, right, and Joie Ray, left, with U.S. President Calvin Coolidge during Nurmi's 1925 U.S. tour.

It’s no secret that I have a crush on Fin­land and there­fore devour every arti­cle I can find about this coun­try. When, in addi­tion, jour­nal­ists write about Fin­land and run­ning, I am hooked.

So let me rec­om­mend a piece writ­ten by Liam Boy­lan-Pett for the Løpe Mag­a­zine about an inim­itable run­ner from the north, Paa­vo Nur­mi, and his U.S. tour in 1924 and 1925. Boy­lan-Pett recon­structs his jour­ney and all the races he ran. Like this one in the Madi­son Square Gar­den in New York.

«Nurmi’s per­for­mance was the top sto­ry of the Times’ sports sec­tion the next day. Ray, to the paper’s cred­it, was called ‹bril­liant› in his effort to stick with Nur­mi. But Nur­mi, right­ful­ly so, was the main attraction—and he would be for the next few months.

Nur­mi was tour­ing the Unit­ed States. His arrival was cov­ered by the media as if the Pope was vis­it­ing, his name fill­ing up the pages and sto­ries about the types of shoes he was train­ing in becom­ing part of ‹all the news that’s fit to print.› From Jan­u­ary 6 to May 26 over more than 50 races, the U.S. sports world belonged to the Fly­ing Finn.»

The fol­low­ing is the diary of a tri­umph and still today, 100 years after Nur­mi’s U.S. tour, I get goose pim­ples while read­ing. Already mere num­bers are stag­ger­ing: Nur­mi ran 55 races in four months and set a total of 38 world records. But this arti­cle is also the sto­ry of a duel—between Nur­mi and U.S. run­ner Joie Ray, two men who sim­ply loved run­ning. An astound­ing piece of his­to­ry you can read more about at

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