I am 100m hurdles Finnish national record holder and a sports journalist. I graduated from Clemson University in 2011: Bachelor of Arts in Communication with summa cum laude (with highest honour). I finished my Master of Arts in Sports Journalism degree in St Mary’s University College in August 2013. I have worked for YLE – Finnish Broadcasting Company, and other major media companies, before I returned to the track and became a professional athlete.
After the 2019 World Championships I rested for two weeks before starting to train for the 2020 Olympics and the European Championships. The fall training went well despite little shin and foot pains. In January I went for a training camp to South Africa with Dutch European Champion Nadine Visser. The camp was amazing and I did PB’s in almost everything, including the split between the hurdles. 0.96 split is my PB in training. Training with a European champion and holding my own against her gave me a lot of confidence.
I believed I could run well indoors, but the long travel from South Africa to Spain and straight to competitions was too much. After the first indoor race I felt a little sting in my hamstring and flew right back to Finland for an MRI. There was a tiny tear in my right hamstring, but even though I could’ve continued the season, I didn’t want to risk the Olympics and decided to end the indoor season. I slowly started training for the outdoor season.
In the middle of February I once again was taken with an ambulance to the hospital, when a little piece of bread was stuck in my esophagus. A few days went with endoscopies and other tests. After that I flew to Valencia for a couple days before flying to Florida to train at the IMG Academy. On the flight to Florida my hamstring had a terrible cramp. That started the hamstring pain that lasted the whole year. I was supposed to train in Florida with Visser again, but the Dutch team never made it there due to COVID.
The first week in Florida was difficult as my good friend, an Argentinian javelin thrower Braian Toledo, passed away in a motorcycle accident. I still managed to train quite well for three weeks and learned a lot of new and great things from the IMG staff. The cramped hamstring was bothering, but bearable. The facilities at the IMG are great, but there was always a little fear of closure due to COVID. On March 17th the day came and I had one hour to pack my bags and rent a car before the car rentals closed. None of my credit cards worked, but after a little crying the rental agent took me to a bank to get a check. I drove a couple hours to Orlando to stay with some Finnish long jumpers.
A few days of training in Orlando went well, until the announcement of gym and track closures. There was also a stay-at-home order. We went to buy weights for the backyard and had to jump over fences to the tracks. The security often kicked us out, so I started going to the track with some friends before 6 in the morning, when it was still dark. At one track the staff said we could train as long as we leave before 8am. Some days some staff came to the track and we hid behind bushes and jumped over fences and ran away. Once from the cops too. A couple of practices were stopped due to the security kicking us out in the middle of the practice, but we always drove to another track 45min away and finished the sessions. Some practices I had to do in grass or a beach volleyball court. For all the hassle and waking up at 4.30am to train, the 10 week camp was a success, but not optimal, obviously.
When the announcement of the postponement of the Olympics came, it was sad, but we still had European Championships to look forward to. The cancellation of the Europeans was a huge disappointment and as soon as I heard the news, I booked a flight back to Finland. My return flight to Spain was already cancelled and rebooked a few times. In Finland I was in a quarantine for two weeks and trained at a home gym and outside. At this point the hamstring problem that started from the cramp on the flight in February started to worsen.
I had only been able to go to Spain for a few days this year. The next two months were extremely stressful, when I tried to end my rental, electricity, water, phone and all the other contracts I was still paying in Spain. All of my belongings were in Spain and I had to try to get them to Finland. All I had with me was the couple luggages I had for the Florida training camp. There were weeks when I couldn’t sleep because of the stress and I spent hours daily to arrange things. Finally a Finnish woman packed some of my most important belongings and a Finnish man brought them to Finland. Huge thanks to them for the help.
I lost most of my belongings in Spain and a three month rental deposit. At the same time I bought my first apartment in Finland. I chose the apartment based on being able to walk to practice. Moving in two countries took a toll on my training and recovery and in May-June I didn’t have any good practices. Even though I didn’t think I was in a good shape, I was still excited to compete and took the opportunity as soon as it was offered in the beginning of June. The night before I was handling moving things until late at night and a week before I wasn’t even able to run, so I had no expectations. My winning time of 12.84 surprised me as much as others. I thought I could’ve run maybe 13.1. The Olympic standard and a world leading time in the season opener was a huge relief.
Right after the season opener we went to run 200m hurdles at the Oslo Diamond League. With just two practices my steps didn’t quite work out, but it was a nice business trip. I trained well for a week, but then my hamstring worsened a lot. For the next competition I had bigger expectations. Anti-inflammatory drugs hadn’t helped, but five days before the race I had a cortisone injection around the hamstring tendon and it took the pain away. I had my best practice ever. The 12.81 I ran in the prelims was my second best time ever, but some hassle at the start and some hits with the girl next to me took the best out of the final.
I was not prepared to compete again until in mid July, but three days before a race in Jyväskylä I found out I would run there also. I went there unsure of competing as my hamstring was hurting a lot and I hadn’t been able to sleep at all because of the moving stuff. I only decided to compete at the warm up. I felt horrible and didn’t think I could run well. Even behind the blocks I was still doubting running because of the pain in the hamstring. Fortunately I ran, as the result was my season best 12.76. My second best time ever.
For my next race in Lahti I had big expectations and it was the only race I managed to run without hamstring pain this season. In the prelims I ran 12.96 to -1.8 m/s headwind and in the final 12.80 to -0.6 m/s headwind. The time in the prelims was great for the strong headwind and the final was maybe my best race ever. In a nice tailwind that should’ve easily been a new national record. One of my biggest goals for season 2020 was to run well into a headwind. That was a better success than I could’ve imagined. The time 12.80 has almost always made it to the Olympic final, so running that into a headwind gave me a lot of confidence for the future.
The rest of the July I was training well, but just before the next competition the inflammation in my hamstring got worse and the pain started radiating to the sciatic nerve. Earlier in the summer I was running with just pain. Now the sciatic started affecting the movement of the leg and it was giving up on many steps. I was still running decently, until one of the main competitions of the season, Paavo Nurmi Games. I had another cortisone injection just before my previous race in Espoo, but it was to a slightly different spot and now it wasn’t helping. In PNG I was running almost sideways and hit a lot of hurdles when my leg wouldn’t straighten and was giving up under me. I rarely hit hurdles, except when a pain is causing a wrong position. The next day I had a third cortisone injection around the tendon of the hamstring, next to the sciatic nerve.
National Championships 2020
Two days after the third cortisone injection, on 14th of August, we had national championships. The cortisone had removed the pain, but after the technically bad races on Tuesday I wasn’t sure how I could run. I had never won the national championship before, so the day was important for me. My warm-up runs were bad, as even though I didn’t have any pain, the leg was still giving up. My hip was also blocked and the warm up came short as we tried to unblock the hip for so long. In the prelims I took a safe start and suddenly running was really easy. My time 12.81 was the national championship record. Before the final we unsuccessfully continued trying to unblock the hip. I was so nervous for the final, I couldn’t fail. It was the biggest pressure of my career.
Once again I took the start maybe a little too safely. My reaction time was bad and the first steps gave up under me. I ran the slowest two hurdles in a couple of years. Still I knew I would win if I didn’t hit any hurdles. The rest of the race went well. Better than ever. I ran 0.97 PB splits and the fastest speed of my life after the second hurdle. I won my first national championship with a championship record 12.79. With the good starts of the beginning of the season I would’ve clearly broken my national record, but as the Finnish championships were my main goal for the season after the postponement of the Olympics, I was super happy.
After the awards ceremony I had a doping test where I had a terrible cramp on my right hamstring due to dehydration. In a few days I tried to compete in Hungary, but I just pulled the hamstring a little more. Jumping the hurdles with a cramped hamstring to 13 seconds was quite the achievement itself. Next week I tore the hamstring a little more and had to cancel most of my races. Unfortunately 100m hurdles were a Diamond League event only in the last two races of the season, in Rome and in Doha. I didn’t want to miss the Diamond Leagues so I was doing rehab and managed to hurdle once before Rome. After flying to Rome my left hamstring that had been hurting all summer started to hurt again. Even the right hamstring was better, running with the pain in the left hamstring was impossible. We decided to cancel Doha and call it the season. As an experience the rehab and returning to competitions was worth it.
2020 was difficult both physically and mentally, but despite everything it was a surprisingly amazing season. National champion, national championship record, undefeated in Finland, eight times under the Olympic qualifying standard, and an average of 12.80. Even improving my national record will have to wait until next season, overall the season was even better than I could’ve imagined. Three times under 12.8, eleven times under 12.9, fifteen times under 13 seconds. The level in all conditions was great and a huge improvement from last season. If you’d take all my best splits from this summer’s races, the time would be 12.56. That tells of the potential. This is a good place to start looking forward to and improving for another Olympic season in 2021!
Spring training 2019
My hamstring injury was bothering training all spring. We continued long runs (300m) until April and I didn’t hurdle properly until April. We continued building base for a long time. Eventually we had to give up the thought of my hamstring getting better. After three MRIs doctors still didn’t know what is wrong with my hamstring and why it continues hurting. Slowly I started to believe that the hamstring will be ok with hard training, despite the bad pain.
Mentally one big thing for me was this 5×11 hurdles practice my coach loves. Last year I tore my quad on first, second and third time I tried it. I only managed to do 2×11 hurdles at best. I was so afraid of the practice because I never came out of it healthy. I only slept a few hours the whole week before this training. When we finally had the courage to do it, it was a huge relief and I knew I will now survive anything. Coach gave this practice for the first time this year for me to do on my birthday as a birthday gift
One morning I was walking to practice, when a drunk driver almost hit me. The car was inches from my umbrella in middle of a huge crosswalk. After a little shock I did my first hurdle start practice in which the hamstring didn’t bother me.This gave more belief that the hamstring will be fine. From this moment we started training even harder, although with the hamstring pain every warm up took forever and every push to the hurdle felt like the hamstring will tear again.
The whole training season was the hardest I’ve ever done. We trained about 10 times a week, and no training was easy. Because of the hamstring I had to skip maybe 4-5 practices and because of an ear infection another three. I also fell badly in stairs, which added one extra day of rest, and still ongoing back pain. I also suffer from insomnia and anxiety, which of course affect recovery. Three years long immunotherapy treatment I have had for my allergies (for birch; dust mites immunotherapy still continues) fortunately ended also, which has positively affected my well being. But with my history this was quite successful training season. Of course I know that a lot could go better. Which is why I believe there is a lot of room for improvement in my results also.
I was very hopeful when starting the competition season, but a bit worried how will the hamstring survive.
World Championships standard and sub-13
In the first races I ran decent times, but I knew that all the hard training is still affecting the results. I opened the season with 13.22 and after that I won European Clubs Championships with 13.18. Then I did the best hurdle practice of my life. Next race was in Pamplona where it took us 7 hours with a bus. I wanted to run sub-13, but two meters headwind and broken blocks ruined the chance. After the race me and my coach decided, that I need to get another race fast. At 9pm I booked flights to Finland for the next morning, because there was a competition in Lahti on Wednesday. There was still that 7 hour ride back to Valencia and my flight would leave at 6am. At the same time I was booking the flights, a member of our club fell and dislocated both of her shoulders. So we had to stay wait for the coaches who of course went to the hospital with her. For a moment I had to be in suspension if I’ll make the flight. After 10pm we managed to leave Pamplona and arrived to Valencia at 4.30am. I took a bag I had packed for the next week with me and took a taxi to the airport. I arrived to Finland at 3pm. I didn’t sleep for 38 hours and traveled 24 hours that weekend. Because the preparation wasn’t optimal, I didn’t expect to get anything else than a good practice out of the race.
To Lahti we drove with my sister and her husband the day of the competition. I did a really tired pre-meet practice the day before. In the heats I ran 13.17 into a headwind, and my expectations didn’t rise at all as I knew there will be headwind in the final also. I didn’t even know what time the calling was for the final and I started to wonder why is everyone else already there when I’m still chilling laying down elsewhere. Before the final all I thought was that would be nice to even win the 1000 euros prize money since I came this far. My start wasn’t that great, but the rhythm started well. I came too close to the sixth and eighth hurdles, and I knew the breaking would slow down my time a little bit. After the finish line I thought I had run maybe another 13.1, which would be a decent time in the headwind.
I couldn’t believe when I saw 12.92 in the scoreboard! The result was quickly fixed to 12.93 (wind -0.2). You can see my reaction in the video below. I had dreamed of running sub-13 since I was little, and I was not expecting it to happen that day. The time was below the standard (12,98) to Doha World Championships. It was also all-time #2 in Finland, 2nd in Europe this season, 27th in the world, Swedish-Finnish federation record and age-30 NR. The biggest dream I have ever had was fulfilled!
I’ve dreamed of running sub-13 since I decided to be a hurdler 17 years ago. It’s been a long road but probably the biggest dream I’ve ever had fulfilled 😍 12.93 in slight headwind, still hard to believe even I knew I can do it! Can’t wait for what more is to come! Finally I’m a real hurdler 😍
For many nights after this I could not sleep and in the next races my head was elsewhere. I ran worse times in much better conditions. 12.93 into a small headwind is much better result than 12.90 or 12.83 I ran with too much tailwind. Tiredness was showing in everything I did, and I did not manage to get into a peak shape at all. My hamstring also started to hurt a lot more again. In a new MRI there can be a seen a hamstring syndrome, so there is inflammation in the hamstring tendon and around it, and a lot of scar tissue. A surgery could make it better, but as long as I’m fine with the bad pain, it’s not necessary. I didn’t feel well until a race in Kuortane on 22nd of June, and the time was 12.83w. First time under the standard to Tokyo Olympics (12.84), but windy. It was nice to get the feeling that I can definitely do it. This was a good moment to end the racing period and take a break to train more. My start was great during the winter and now it’s a bit lost, and I’m also making technical mistakes in races, so those are the things we will work on now
National record, Olympic standard, Europe vs USA, World Champs semifinal
What a season! I couldn’t be happier.
I broke the Finnish national record in 100m hurdles, I ran the Olympic standard, I was selected to represent Europe at Europe vs USA Match as the second fastest European this season, I made it to the semifinal at world championships and finished the season with the 3rd best time in Europe this year.
Finnish 100m hurdles national record is something I never imagined I would be capable of doing. But I did it. I ran NR 12.72. It’s taken me weeks to realize that it was really me and now that the season is over I can finally be happy and proud about it.
At the same time I ran the Olympic standard for 2020 Tokyo Olympics. This was my biggest dream and goal for the season. Qualifying to the Doha world championships was the second biggest goal and if everything goes perfectly, making it to the world championships semifinal.
Running 12.72 changed everything. Doha became only a learning step for Tokyo 2020 and 2020 European championships. The importance of it changed from the excitement of my first world championships to being more about testing and learning how to prepare for next year.
I realized if I can run 12.72 with one year of real training and without funding, I know I’m capable of running faster and more consistent with another year of training. First year of training fully professionally. Another year of training hopefully gives me the strength to actually chase medals and finals.
All thoughts after the NR moved to Tokyo. That’s why the end of the season was mentally very difficult, but I’m glad I was able to end it with two sub-13 runs and world championships semifinal at my first world championships.
Europe vs USA selection was also a big thing for me and it was a great experience. You can’t get much bigger honor than representing your continent. Just two weeks earlier I won Finnkampen (Finland vs Sweden Match) for the first time in 12.85. Europe vs USA was Finnkampen on another level. Both amazing experiences!
The season exceeded all my expectations and I can’t wait for next year! The best thing has been the hope and faith I have been able to give others to never give up on their dreams no matter what. It’s never too late and impossible is nothing!
Fall training and indoor season 2019
I started training again after three weeks of rest.The hamstring I tore in Pärnu was hurting all fall, but I still managed to train well. In November we had a two week training camp in Turkey with the Finnish hurdlers and everything went really well until I arrived back home to Valencia. My hamstring started hurting a lot, but I continued training until around Christmas, when I had to take 10 days off of running because of the pain. After the rest, we had a national team training camp in Tenerife, where I ran the best and fastest hurdle practices of my life that far. I was sure I would run sub 8 seconds in the 60m hurdles.
After a week of the camp I did a great hurdle start practice with the Finnish hurdlers, and after the starts together, I told the national team coach that I’ll just do one more alone. One more is rarely a good thing. I had to learn it again. I thought my hamstring cramped when I pushed to the second hurdle, but the pain kept increasing, and I walked straight into a hospital from the track. There was a rupture in my hamstring.
After couple weeks I tried to hurdle again and the pain got worse. I flew to Finland where a doctor said that I could still compete during the indoor season, but he asked that I think which one is more important, running in the European Indoor Championships or the World Championships outdoors. Indoors have never been my goals or dreams and the World Championships were the biggest goal of the year. We decided not to risk the dream of the World Championships and not to run the indoor season. It was difficult to watch the indoor season from the sidelines, especially because I knew I was in a great shape. My coach was expecting me to medal at the European Indoors. It required a lot of patience, but the whole time I believed the decision was worth it.
End of the season 2018
After Berlin I ran two more races. First in Pärnu, and after that the season highlight, Finland vs Sweden athletics match. In Pärnu I slipped onto a shoe, and tore my upper hamstring. I still ran 13.23 placing second in the Finland vs Sweden match and we got a triple win with the Finnish women! This was one of the highlights of my career this was, the atmosphere in Tampere was incredible.
Training and life in Valencia started great and in first two week I improved a lot. On third week I tore my quad and it took two weeks to heal. I managed to train for a week, and I tore the quad even worse. This time the recovery took four weeks. After a few days of training I tore the quad from a third spot.This was three weeks before my first real race. At this point I was losing all faith that I can run well this summer. We hadn’t had more than three healthy weeks of training. I cried almost every day because I had taken such a huge risk by quitting my job and moving to Valencia, and it didn’t look like I could run any kind of results this summer.
I ran with spikes for two weeks and went to Paavo Nurmi Games in Finland without any expectations. There I ran my best season opener ever by half a second. All the faith and hope of the European Championships was alive again. Four days after I tore my quad again in Salamanca for the fourth time. The healing took a bit over a week. Soon I was competing again and I ran my PB 13.16 and the standard to the European Championships. I improved to 13.14 four days later. My best results in June were 13.14, 13.16, 13.16w (the standard was 13.25).
Finnish national championships and European Championships
The Finnish national championships were the toughest race of my life this far. For the whole year we knew that the level of the hurdles is so high in Finland that we will likely have more than three women with the standard. Before the nationals there were four women with the standard and we were told that top three from the nationals goes to the European Championships. I trained hard for two weeks after my PB races before flying to Finland.
The whole week of the nationals I was really tired and my body was just dead. I didn’t think I could run a good time since even getting into the blocks was difficult. In the prelims I thought I can’t even finish the race, but I won my heat and ran the second fastest time of the prelims. Normally I think I will run well and I have confidence in myself, but before the final I was sure I will run bad and I will be fourth. In the final I took a horrible start and thought I lost it already. Still, I never gave up and the end went really well. I was just thinking I will not lose this. After the finish I had no idea how I placed. When I saw I was second with 13.15 on the scoreboard, I couldn’t even celebrate. After my PB I cried from happiness for half an hour, but this time the months of stress just came out as tiredness. My head was completely empty and I have no idea what I said in the interviews after the race. I was thinking the happiness would come later, latest when the European Champs team is announced, but feels like the stress of the trials and nationals still isn’t completely gone.
The next week I competed in Sweden and ran a decent time after a 14 hour trip. After the race I thought I broke my foot, but fortunately switching shoe brand and a physio helped to the pain. After Sweden I ran in Finland for the last race before the European Champs. I ran 13.21 and 13.18 in no wind, which was very promising for the Europeans. On Thursday before Berlin, six days before my race, I ran the best hurdle training I have ever done. I was sure I can run under 13 seconds in Berlin.
The same day my face started hurting and I had a headache and stuffy nose. In Berlin on Sunday I went to see a doctor who gave me antibiotics for sinusitis. My allergies get worse when I go to Finland, so I think it came from that. Monday’s last preparation training was alright, but my coach said he already saw that something is wrong. From Sunday until Tuesday I was feeling really sick, but on race day morning I thought I was already better and I didn’t think it would affect my race. On the first start at the European Championships I took an amazing start in the race but it was called back. On the second I took a good start again, but I didn’t get into my rhythm at any point and didn’t have energy to run until the end. The time 13.31 was a disappointment, but it was my best time into a headwind. I also ran the first three hurdles 0.17 seconds faster than in my PB race, which tells that I have a lot to improve on my PB still. I was fourth in my heat and three went into semifinals.
As an experience Berlin was incredible. I paid my own hotel for the rest of the days after my race until the end of the championships so I could watch and also to train with my coach. It was worth it! The incredible performances from other athletes gave so much motivation for training for the next year. I have worked as a journalist in major championships before, but this was my first time as an athlete in the senior level. This was noticed by the rest of the world also, and in addition to Polish TV and Swedish magazines, CNN made a story about me. This was one of the highlights of the European Championships for me. I asked them in the interview for a job after the Tokyo Olympics and they said let’s stay in touch!
Fall 2017 and indoor season 2018
My fall training was delayed by a few weeks because I was in a motorcycle accident. Also other incidents happened. Fortunately I didn’t get any major injuries and after these incidents my training was going well, even though I still trained after 9h work days. I bought a motorcycle to avoid cycling 10km every day to training. I also went for a training camp to Egypt so I would get even one week of training without full-time work.
My indoor season started in December with a decent result, but it was not what I was expecting. In my first proper competition in January I twisted my ankle and broke a bone in my foot. Soon after I was robbed (for the third time within a year) and that started my three month sick leave for anxiety and panic attacks. I couldn’t train or work, but I competed on weekends. I was feeling really bad in Barcelona and also I was thinking that if I will ever run well, I have to do it now, because I am already 30-years-old. I had so many dreams I hadn’t fulfilled, and I knew now it’s the time to do them. I decided I need to move, and I quit my full-time job in mid-March and moved to Valencia.
My best 100m hurdles time this summer was 13.25, which would be the qualifying standard to European Championships next summer, but because of a malfunctioning wind meter, it was marked as windy. If the result was legal, it would’ve been the best time in Spain and equal best time in Finland. I ran the time in over 40 degrees pneumonia, so if my season had not ended in a few days, I think I could’ve ran even better. In zero winds I ran 13.48 and 13.49 (fastest times in Catalonia), and the best result was probably running the fastest time in Catalan championships. All my in-shape races in July I ran basically alone. My best reaction time this summer was 0.18 and mostly 0.22+, so there is a lot to improve for next season. I ended my season after the pneumonia, but I would’ve missed Finnish and Spanish national championships anyways as my sister got married the same day. In beginning of March I didn’t think I would ever compete again, so 13.25 is better than I could’ve even dreamed to run Now with bigger goals to the next season!
It’s been couple years since my last update, but I thought as I now have the #1 time in Finland, I would update how did we get here Last year I finally became healthy after being very sick for years. I only have to get immunotherapy treatment for couple more years for my worst allergies anymore. I moved to Barcelona at the end of December and I haven’t been training at all for three years. I have only gone to the gym two or three times a week and ran at a beach occasionally. Before February, I took my last running step maybe in August or September.
On February 26 a decathlete I know was training in Barcelona and I came with him to run some hurdles for fun. My first steps were absolutely terrible, I think I would’ve ran way over 15 seconds for a 100m. I couldn’t even get to the first hurdle so I moved it a lot closer and put the hurdles one meter closer than normal. Hurdling was fun, so I decided to come again the next weekend. On March 5 I ran hurdles alone again and thought maybe I could train couple times a week and run the standard to Finnish nationals and maybe a lot better next summer. On March 9 I came to the track and an athlete from my group came to ask “Are you from Finland? I had a Finnish manager. Are you training alone? You should come train with us.” He then introduced me to the group and the coach and March 10 was my first proper practice with the group. Because almost everyone runs 400m hurdles, I ran them also in my first practice.
At first I trained only four times a week because I work full-time 40 hours a week, but we get to decide our work times so I moved mine from 9.30 to 8.00 and I don’t take a lunch break (in Spain 1h lunch with no pay is normally mandatory, therefore workdays are 9 hours) so now I get to practice on time 17.30. In the first weeks of training my improvement was tremendous even I came to practice tired after biking almost 10km. Slowly all my goals started to get higher. After couple weeks of training I tore my hamstring and had edema and bursitis all around my hip. Luckily as an FC Barcelona athlete we get to use their facilities and training center Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper. I got to see a doctor and have an MRI within a few days. I couldn’t really run hurdles, but other than 100% running I was able to do most of the training.
My first competition was on May 7 in Catalonian league final (like Catalonian clubs’ championships). I wouldn’t have wanted to compete after only training for less than two months, but I wanted to represent my new club, so even on April 28 FC Barcelona doctor told me I couldn’t run for couple weeks, I decided to run the race. I couldn’t train properly in the couple weeks prior to the race, but I thought if I can run under 14 seconds I’ll be really happy. Before the race I was taking ibuprofen and putting ibuprofen gel to my hamstring, anything that could help with the pain. My first proper hurdle start in five years was so nerve-wracking that my reaction time was terrible and I ran way too high over the hurdles. Time was still 13.80 and I got the maximum points for FC Barcelona, so even though my bag with all my belongings disappeared from the track, I got so much encouragement and faith that I can run a lot faster this summer.
For the next couple weeks I couldn’t run hurdles because of the hamstring, but otherwise training went well. I was making PBs in the gym, and training was fun. The next two weeks until my next competition I had tonsillitis and I was on sick-leave for multiple days. I wasn’t recovering from training and a few days before the race I was wondering if I can run at all. The next race was on June 3 in Salamanca and we traveled 12.5 hours to get there. I was running my best times ever in training so I was expecting to be able to run 13.2-13.3, but after so long travel expectations were a bit lower. In the prelims I just felt loose and you could see that also, but still my time was 13.50. The final was 45 mins later and the first seven hurdles were great for me and I was running a lot faster than in the prelims. I didn’t quite control the speed and hit the 7th hurdle really hard and had to jump to the next hurdle. In training, I would’ve stopped running at that point. I jumped the next two hurdles and still took the last hurdle with me with my badly bruised knee. I really don’t know how I finished the race. I thought the time was close to 14 seconds and was really surprised to see 13.56. For a moment I actually thought I came second and ran 14 seconds.
The time is the best time in Finland this year. Times 13.80, 13.50 and 13.56 are my best season openers ever. I still can’t quite comprehend how I can run this well with less than three months of training. Before I was studying (which is the easiest phase of an athlete’s life) or just training, and I have never been in this good shape. Now I work 40h a week and bike over 10km every day to work and training, which is definitely not helping a sprinter as I’m already tired during warm-up. In addition, my hamstring injury has been bothering most of the training. Only differences now are that I am completely healthy and training is different. Before I had inflammation in my body all the time because of my diseases, but now I feel like every day I am improving in training.
My next race is a World Challenge, Paavo Nurmi Games. I am really excited to get to run in a World Challenge, but I don’t have any expectations of super-fast times in the Finnish unpredictable weather. After that I’ll run one more race in Finland, then Catalonian championships, and after some races in Spain.
My training group and coach are amazing, and without them I doubt I would have ever really competed again. There’s great athletes in my group, who are also great training partners. My coach is supportive and his training is different to what I have ever done before, but I really like it and I think it fits me well. Representing FC Barcelona and their faith in me of course gives a lot of motivation for the future and I have decided to properly train for next year. This year I’m just happy to be running healthy, but for next year my goals are much higher.
Thanks to everyone for supportive messages and congratulations, every message gives a bit more motivation. Special thanks to the two guys who by coincidence got me competing again, my life has changed a lot and I have never been this happy
Needless to say I have been too sick to train for the past nine months. People ask me all the time when will I compete again. Right now I’m just happy that I’m as healthy as I can be. I feel good enough to get out of the house, first time in years I’m not in pain all the time, I can breath without excruciating pain, and first time in years I can swallow food without having to think will I choke on it. I workout when I feel like it and do whatever I feel like doing.
September 2014-February 2015
I had worked in Diamond Leagues and European Champs all summer and often did over 20 hour workdays. I got ill, but thought it was only because of the huge workload. Fever never went down in the next 6 months and badly sore throat continued the same time. My nose has been stuffed up for years, so doctor decided to remove some bone that I could breathe better. It made me feel a little better, but an extensive four-hour surgery in local anaesthesia and recovery from it was rough. The surgery helped to recurrent sinusitis, but fever and sore throat continued. Every time I got up from bed, my fever got higher and swallowing difficulties and stomach pain started getting worse. The stomach pain has lasted for five years and the pain is worse than any pain I have ever experienced. Breaking a bone is nothing compared to it. I just want to lay on a cold floor and cry. Swallowing was getting more difficult all the time and I was in a hospital once again for an endoscopy. The endoscopy only showed chronic inflammation in my oesophagus, like it has for years now. I spent over six months mostly in hospital getting tests done. Every possible disease starting from cancers were tested, but nothing was found. For three months I couldn’t eat anything but mashed or liquid food. Even swallowing water was painful and difficult. I’ve been about to choke so many times it’s almost normal to me already, but in November for the first time I thought I will die now. Fire fighters came to save me quickly and only job left for an ambulance crew was to check on my extremely high blood pressure. At the same time all my food allergies started getting worse. I’ve usually known what I’m allergic to because my mouth starts tingling and lips swelling from eating almost any vegetable and fruits. The lip swelling is caused by angioedema. All allergies aren’t this easily detectable though. In November and December I was so sick that even walking to the fridge seemed like an impossible mission. I couldn’t stay up more than couple hours a day and walking just couple steps made me dizzy. All foods started causing allergic symptoms like tingling in mouth, swollen lips, rash in my arms and bad stomach pain.
Diagnosis of the oesophagus and fever
In December I finally got a diagnosis for the swallowing issues: Eosinophilic esophagitis. It is a rare chronic allergic inflammatory condition of the oesophagus that is probably caused by allergies. It causes swallowing difficulties, food impaction and heartburn. It is incurable and only treatment available is avoiding foods that the patient is allergic to. My doctor also wanted to test three month long medicine trial. In my blood tests only abnormal things have been weakened immune system and allergies. After the diagnosis I was tested for all food allergies and I was allergic to almost all foods. Everything except rice and corn. I can’t eat any cereals (wheat, barley, oats, rye, millet for those not knowing what cereals are), most fruits and vegetables, meat, peanuts, seafood, milk or eggs. In addition to food allergies I was extremely allergic to everything growing outside, all animals, and very allergic to dust mites. I stopped eating all cereals and all other foods causing allergies and right away I started feeling better. The fever that had lasted for over six months was gone. I was able to eat solid food again. Cereals seemed to have caused inflammation in my body causing the fever.
The hamstring I tore in May got better quickly and I was training well. I was just about to start competing when I did my last hurdle workout in Paris with Pascal Martinot-Lagarde. He told me to do something I was quite sure I couldn’t do, but of course you have to listen to the best hurdler in the world. First run went surprisingly well, but I said I’m so tired I doubt I’ll get over the hurdles anymore. Pascal told me to run anyways and of course I didn’t make it over the hurdles and fell so badly that I didn’t walk for a few days with my swollen knee. MRI showed only bruising in muscles and thighbone, so I thought it would be fine to still compete later in the summer. The knee weirdly just kept swelling and in two months a lot of blood and fluid needed to be removed. Summer was over at this point.
Training was going very well. At a warm weather training camp in Malaga I was running hurdlers better than ever, something just clicked in block starts and even the worst part of my running was going great. Of course with my luck I tore my hamstring in the last practice of the training camp. The hamstring was so sore we went to see a doctor the same night. He just needed to look at the hole in the hamstring to say it’s definitely torn. Ultrasound imaging confirmed it was almost 2 inches long tear. The next day I left Malaga airport in a wheelchair like the year before.
Diagnosis of the sternum
The sternum had gotten worse during the spring again. Cortisone shots always helped for couple weeks, but even breathing was painful. Doctors were considering long-term options, such as removing the whole sternum and using very strong painkillers. Staying in bed for a year after sternum removal, nor being high all the time, seemed like good options. I had visited so many hospitals and even the senior physicians there couldn’t figure out what’s wrong. In June a doctor I know well said that it seems clearly to be Tietze syndrome. None of the doctors I had visited before even suggested this. Tietze syndrome is benign inflammation in one or more of the costal cartilages, which causes pain identical to a heart attack and is often misdiagnosed as such. “Pain is exacerbated with respiration. It is extremely painful, to the point of being debilitating. It normally resolved within 12 weeks, but can be a chronic condition. Pain is identical to a heart attack and can cause hyper ventilating, anxiety attacks, passing out, panic attacks and temporary numbness/paralysis. MRI and all symptoms matched, even though my inflammation had lasted for over three years. The pain continued getting worse, until in July after sixth cortisone shot it suddenly ended almost totally.
Tests to figure out what’s wrong with me continued in different hospitals in January. Doctors tested the sternum for even viruses only dolphins have ever had. All tests were negative. In December my hamstring had started hurting and it prevented me from training properly. MRI showed some fluid on top of my thighbone and we decided to take 6 weeks off of training. In December also my swallowing difficulties that had lasted for four years started getting worse and I ended up in hospital with tiny piece of food stuck in my oesophagus. More to come about that later.
Doctors have cancelled my diagnosis and made up new ones and cancelled again, so I’ve just been going to hospital for all kinds of tests (and spent a few days and nights there too) and been training. Coach was thinking what is this gonna be when we started from below scratch, but somehow, even I can’t do anything that makes me exhausted or lift anything with arms, I’ve improved so much all the time, and been running faster in flats than I have ever ran in spikes. We were thinking that maybe I’ll compete by the summer, but looks like I might already compete indoors. Cortisone injections have helped me so much, I can already breath normal and without pain, but I still have to be careful when training because blood tests showed that my immune system is very weak and my bones are also weak. I’ve been transferred from a hospital to another a few times, next stop is one that treats abnormal and exigent infectious diseases. Other hospitals and senior doctors’ problem meetings have said they got no clue what to do. X-ray randomly showed that I tore my humerus bone off my shoulder a year ago..I thought it was just a sore muscle..my pain tolerance is probably a bit too high. While I’m waiting for doctors to make some conclusions, it feels amazing to be able to run without pain or injured legs, which is rare for me, and to progress so much all the time. We’ll see indoors how it’s really going.
Thought I would continue this now (August 2013). Apparently there is much more things you can hurt. I tore my quad twice in the fall, but everything was looking okay. I had been sick a lot like I have been ever since I had mycoplasma and Nephropathia epidemica but I still managed to train. Then in March when I was feeling really good at practice I fell and hurt my knee so badly it kept hurting for couple months. At the same time my sternum that had been hurting since February 2012 started hurting a lot more so I couldn’t do any upper body lifting (I haven’t been able to do power cleans or any other heavy lifts you need your arms to since May 2012 because of it). But I thought that’s okay too. In a training camp in May I was finally able to run hurdles again with the hurting knee. Then walking off of last practice couple hours before a flight home I sprained my ankle. Well in a couple weeks that was okay too but by this time my sternum had been gotten so bad breathing was hurting, so I decided to go get another MRI. MRI couple months earlier had been showing just swelling in the sternum. Now it showed that the space between the two sternum bones had spread and the bones surfaces looked obscure, and wide area of the sternum bones and some ribs have swelling. Next was CT scan which showed as the MRI said that the space between the bones had spread, the joint surfaces were gouged, sclerotic, had ragged edges. Also the bones were sclerotic. Then was biopsy to see there’s no bad cells. There was no bad cells, just chronic inflammation. Diagnosis is that I’ve had chronic reactive arthritis since the two infections I had 1.5 years ago and now it’s corroding the bones in my sternum and ribs, and destroying the joint between the bones. Doctors say it’s very rare to get it from them and to that joint but hey when haven’t I had some very rare things. Bones are so deformed they might not go back to normal, but it will be stopped from getting worse with injections and chemotherapy (which is normal rheumatoid arthritis treatment). No running for a while, but at least I should get rid of all the pain
PS. Good thing about being so sick so much is that I finished my master’s degree with great grades! Always find positive things
I got ill with mycoplasma in November and as soon as I arrived to Finland in January I also got Nephropathia epidemica. I still ran indoor nationals in which I placed fourth (same time with bronze medalist) without training for months. Outdoors I ran the standard for European Championships but strained a muscle in my foot in the next race which ended the season.
Summary: I don’t know what else could get hurt anymore so I hope this year will go well with my new coach. I left out all the minor injuries from this story since those would take pages. After 6 years of so horrible back pain I couldn’t sit or stand still without pain and two years of not knowing if I can ever run again, I am just happy I can run.
Indoor season started well despite the hard training season. In the first meet I ran my personal best, which was the best time in Finland. It stayed at the second best time in Finland all season. We ran 20x200m to prepare for this meet so it was definitely not suppose to be the peak. After this meet though my shins started hurting again. I could rarely train and I still ran decent times. After fourth meet my shins were hurting so much I couldn’t even walk anymore. I had to rest for three months because the shins just wouldn’t get better; MRI showed them just getting worse. After three months of total rest in beginning of June I decided that either I start training now or I won’t run this summer. I could not know if the shins would get or would not get better. After 3 weeks of training I equaled my personal best even I hit last 3 hurdles and messed up the rhythm badly. I had no strength to finish the race. Or run to a headwind. Every other race I ran to a headwind. Shins were still hurting so I had to decide to either run in our nationals or get a surgery so I could fly back to school on time. I had a surgery on both of the shins and my hamstring (which had been hurting for 2 years and I could never run 100% without hurdles but this had been minor to me with the other problems). After 6 weeks I was running without pain probably first time in my life
Training year went well with my back; I only had minor pain and problems. In the fall I pulled my quad and in March I got a stress fracture on my metatarsal and that was it for the year. In the fall I could train well until my shins started hurting. I was training couple weeks and had to take a week off. In the first meet in December I ran my personal best after only couple weeks of real hurdle training.
After couple weeks I could already run even though it was still hard to lift my left leg since all the muscles were gone. After three months I already ran close to my personal best even I hadn’t really been training in 1.5 years. This summer I was representing Finland in European U23 Championships on Lithuania. I fell at practice right before then and my knee got hurt so I didn’t really compete after that.
A Finnish doctor went to a spine conference somewhere in Europe and there a Swedish doctor (former Swedish alpine skiing national team doctor whose name I cannot remember, but I want to find out so I can thank him) said he could try something for my back. I got a phone call in the evening and I started booking flights to Sweden right away even there was no guarantee that the “something” would help and insurance would not cover it. My appointment was at 8PM after regular hours and first he tried to put local anesthesia to the nerves around facet joints in my back (where MRI only showed little degeneration). I got up from the table and I could lift my left leg right away, not much though since all the muscles were gone after so long time of not lifting it. After this he burned all the nerves around three joints on both sides and said they might grow back in couple years or they might never grow back. He also said that he feels so bad for me since nobody had been able to help in all those years and he wouldn’t’ want me to pay but he has to make business and will send the bill later. The bill never came.
In 2008 I could not train at all. I couldn’t even walk stairs because I could not lift my left leg at all because of the back pain. I could never sit down or stand up more than 5 minutes at a time. This had been going on since I was 14 though. Until the fall 2008 I had seen every possible doctor and nobody knew what to do to fix my back. “World’s best sports surgeon” Sakari Orava told me I should start playing table tennis because I could never run again. I did not believe this and I kept training what I could. Our national hurdle coach told me “it’s good that you believe in yourself”, when no one else believed I could ever run again. Everyday I got home from practice (where I could not do much) and started crying.
Next year was hard, but better. As a 19-year old I had already won 4 national junior championships. Training year went well, but just before the first race I pulled my hamstring. I still ran decent times with the pulled hamstring for 3 weeks until MRI showed I have 2 inches long and 1 inch wide tear in my hamstring. At the same time I hurt my wrist and it wasn’t until the end of the summer that I got MRI and the wrist was in pieces and I ended up getting a surgery after the season. I ran in European Junior Champs after 3 weeks of training and local anesthesia on the wrist. I made it to the final, but false started because I could not hold myself up long enough with one hand. 8th place in European Junior Championships with torn hamstring and broken wrist was pretty decent still. Couple weeks later I got bronze in our national senior championships with a time that would have gotten second the year after and won past 3 years. These have been last national championships I have been able to run. I also won Nordic Championships that year.
Next year was really tough and training was impossible at times because of the back pain. As a 18-year old in World Junior Championships in Beijing I couldn’t even warm-up properly because the back was hurting and I could rarely train, but I still made it to the semi-finals (where I fell).
As a 17-year old I won my first national youth championships and I was representing Finland in World Youth Championships in Marrakesh, Morocco, where I made it to the semi-finals. I ran the fifth best time, but unfortunately the semis were not even. After this my back got worse, until then it was manageable but was hurting when I was sitting or standing.
Everything started when I was 14 and ran the national indoor record for 14-year olds in 60m hurdles (it was broken the next year). Couple weeks after this my hip started hurting and I couldn’t lift my left leg. Doctor told me not to run for two months, which as a 14-year old felt like forever. After two months I could run, but my back started hurting. I could still somewhat run from 14-year old to 17-year old.