Masters Class - Page 2
Photo by Larry Gassan.
“Jussi is a gentleman and an outstanding athlete with an obviously big heart, both physically and spiritually,” says Winton.
In 1997, when Hamalainen’s friend Pellon passed away suddenly from a heart attack, Hamalainen honored him by completing 10 Western States 100s. Pellon had run 12 Western States 100s, and, though Hamalainen had previously thought he would concentrate on other races, he went back to that race that year, and finished his 10th in 2002.
In 2006, Hamalainen asked Winton if any runner 60 years or older had ever finished under the 24-hour mark. Winton said he doubted it. Hamalainen smiled, and that year, his 60th, came in at 23:43.
Hamalainen says he doesn’t know how long he will race. He has never dropped out of any race, and attributes much of his success to fellow Fin Majamaki, who he met in California when they both ran the Lasse Viren 20K in 1984. “Pauli makes it so I don’t have to think about it,” says Hamalainen. 2003 was the first year Hamalainen did not finish in under 24 hours. Hamalainen had wanted to drop, but Majamaki only had to say, “You’ll feel bad.” Hamalainen pulled himself together and crossed the line in 26:04. He was 56.
As a youngster of 40, Hamalainen would run 200-mile-plus weeks, but now he chooses quality over quantity. He likes to run the trail from Chantry Flats to Mount Wilson, stopping at Cosmic Café at the top to have a Snickers and a Coke. He still ramps up to 100 miles a week, and takes a month to taper. “Now I think about how many times I will do the race,” says Jussi, “not how long it will take.”