When Olavi Suomalainen won the Boston Marathon in 1972, it was a complete surprise.


Finnish runners had long history of coming to Boston and winning. In fact, they had done so six times previously, but no one expected the Finn to break the tape on Boylston Street.

Lining up in Hopkington, MA, with a pair of red leather Karhu racing flats on his feet, Olavi pinned bib number 7 to his mesh singlet. A mere 2:15:39 later, he would cross the finish line making it the 7th time a Finn claimed victory in Boston.

The “Celebration of Seven” singlet honors Olavi Suomalainen’s 1972 performance on Marathon Monday.

This is a good day to win a marathon,” Olavi remarked, “Especially if you have never won one before.”

When Olavi Suomalainen awoke early Monday morning at the home of Karl Makela, his host in Holden, MA, it had been raining. It was cold, damp, and grey clouds were scudding low and eastward. It was the sort of morning to gladden a Finn’s heart.

Olavi had never run, let alone won a marathon. Boston would be his first attempt at the distance.

Despite academic studies that limited the ability to train during Olavi’s early university career, the most rigorous courses were behind him. A new coach and with the marathon in mind, Olavi began training with weeks over 250 kilometers (155 miles). Since it was Olavi’s first marathon, the plan for Boston was to rely on his training partner’s, Markku Salminen, experience.

Running in about 7th place and approaching the 10 mile mark, Markku noticed Olavi’s effort was relaxed. With encouragement from his friend, “don’t let me hold you,” Olavi made his way towards the leaders.

Attacking through Newton and up Heartbreak Hill, Olavi made his way to the front of the field only to be nearly cut off by a press truck and police motorcycle.

Olavi remembers, “Right when I was passing the leader, the press truck slowed down. I guess they wanted to get good photos. The police motorcycle didn’t have much room to move and we were squeezed between the truck and the crowd."

"I was so close to the truck that I could have reached out my hand and grabbed the cigar from a photographer’s mouth… but, I didn’t!”

Olavi covered the 4.1 mile distance in the Newton Hills in a swift 21m 28s and secured his victory by racing down Beacon Street and on to the famed Boylston Street finish. At the time, Olavi’s time of 2:15:39 marked the third fastest performance ever recorded on the Boston course.

An honorable accomplishment for an inexperienced marathoner.

Olavi’s new wife, Lisa, had also made the trip sponsored by the Finnish-American Marathon Association. After the race, per tradition, a room was reserved at the Lennox Hotel where the victor could shower and relax.

Karhu ES

Upon returning to Finland, Olavi resumed his studies and finished his degree in mining at the Technical University of Helsinki. One of the professors who had granted Olavi an extension in the previous semester had adopted a new policy... “There is only one possible exemption to the coursework deadline… you have to win the Boston Marathon.”

The “Celebration of Seven” singlet is cut from a breathable, lightweight and fast-drying open air mesh. A sublimated pattern of sevens ensures premium details without added weight. The back features a detailed story tag highlighting Olavi’s victory.

Wear proudly, run with “sisu.”