Intimidation and Preparation — Lasse Viren

From Running with the Legends:

Viren’s mystique was by now so great that the other 15 runners in the Olympic 10,000-meter finals “handed” him the race before they even started, says Garry Bjorklund, who made the United States team by nipping Bill Rodgers in the Olympic trials. Bjorklund remembers the tension of waiting to race in the finals.

As they prepare you to go out on the track, you walk through a labyrinth of tunnels. You don’t actually see the track until they lead you out. We sat in a room beneath the stadium, where they checked our spikes and numbers, and we could hear the pulsing of the crowds outside, reverberating. We could feel the Olympics, but not see them. 

The finalists waited anxiously in the room. Then, five minutes before they were to go out on the track,

we realized we were all thinking exactly the same thing — Lasse Viren wasn’t there. Just then, in walks Viren, like the imperial king. Officials checked his hip numbers and his spikes, and then he sat down, all by himself. He put his elbows on his knees and just slowly looked around at everyone in the room, one by one, as if to say, “I’m here guys.” And the race was over then. I’ve never seen a presence like that. 

We all know how that race ended…Lasse Viren picked up the GOLD medal.


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