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Tuuli Merikoski

Tuuli Sisko Merikoski
Born November 22, 1967 Tampere

Executive Masters in Sports Organization Management (MEMOS) 2007, University of Lyon
Specialist Qualification in Management 2001, Sport Institute of Finland
Master of Arts 1998 (general linguistics), University of Helsinki

Director of development for top-level sport education 2011–, Helmi Business and Travel College, Helsinki
Expert advisor on dual career planning for athletes 2001–11, Finnish Olympic Committee
Executive director 1999–2011, Cultural and Sports Association of Finnish Vocational Education and Training, SAKU
Sports secretary 1998, Cultural and Sports Association of Finnish Vocational Education and Training, SAKU
Top athlete 1987–94, Finnish Athletics Federation

Board of the Finnish Olympic Committee 2012–
Chairman of the board 2014–, Finnish Foundation for the Promotion of Athletes’ Professional Education
Board member 2014–, Urhea Foundation , Metropolitan Sports Academy
Board member 1998– Tampereen Pyrintö basketball team

Numerous expert lectures and workshops in sports and educational organisations, many articles on combining sport and study and athletes’ career planning.

“Dual Career in Finland” in the book Sport, Education and Training in Europe. A dual career for a dual life. 2015.

“Urheiluakatemiasta tukea opiskeluun ja huippu- urheiluun. Akatemioiden tarjoamia mahdollisuuksia ei vielä ole täysin oivallettu (‘Support from the sports academy for study and top-level sport. The opportunities offered by sports academies have yet to be fully appreciated’)” (Together with Jari Lämsä and Asko Härkönen) Liikunta & Tiede 2-3/2009

Memorandum of the working group investigating the financial situation of student athletes, Ministry of Education 2004

“Onnellisen naisen paluu” (Return of the happy woman) in the work Juoksun hurma ja tuska. suomalaisen kestävyysjuoksun kuva (‘The ecstasy and the agony of running. A portrait of Finnish long-distance running’) 1994.

Finnish women’s 800m record (2:00.59) 1991, still standing

Photo: Anu Laitila
Written by Tuuli Merikoski and Olli Siitonen (ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Running Career

As a little girl I was already light on my feet, much quicker than the other neighbourhood kids. The important thing, however, was not being faster than the others. Running itself was its own reward. Exercise was a big thing in my family, and that set the standard for me. My childhood memories include chocolate treats after a run, enjoying a campfire during treks in the forest, the satisfaction of fatigue. That is probably why I half-forced my own children to come skiing or hiking with me. After such an exertion they had red cheeks and were relaxed, and, best of all, they were visibly pleased with themselves and how they felt.

My athletic career began at a school event, where I was recruited by the multi-sport club Tampereen Pyrintö. At the beginning my training was sporadic, but soon I was running every day. Unfortunately around the same time I got carried away with healthy nutrition and watching my weight. I was afflicted with anorexia, that disease of ambitious and conscientious young women. At my worst I weighed less than five stone. I could hardly stand, let alone run. It was paradoxical: I had embraced the health regime to be a better athlete.

Luckily I recovered, and after taking a few years off I returned to running, going from school events to county championships and from Finnish championships to the World Championships. 800 metres solidified as my main event. I took a year off from studying after upper secondary school to start training more systematically. Soon I had a new coach, the Pole Maria Paczos. We did not even have a common language, but there was a unique trust between us. Studying Polish at the University also helped.

My training was varied and I ran thousands of miles every year. In 1991, I ran 800 metres in 2:00.59, which is still the Finland national record. Then I succumbed to overtraining, and my enthusiasm for the sport evaporated. In 1994 I had the good sense to retire. I had a new challenge ahead of me, motherhood. After the birth of my first child, I considered making a comeback, but instead ended up getting a playmate for my firstborn. My two children were born within a year and a half of each other, and I gave up my athletic career. But not running.

I started practicing for the marathon. To the horror of my friends, the television initially served as the nanny: an hour and a half of children’s programming. Later on the children would keep me company while running. For a long time now my training philosophy has been “what feels good.” I do not have any workout routine, but I run every day: from fifteen minutes to an hour, depending on my schedule. Going for a quick run at work with a colleague is a great feeling. The running continues!

Family life has offered security and safety. It has been a delight to watch the kids grow up. My daughter Sohvi Silius has already moved out and is studying social sciences at the University of Tampere, and her brother Severi Silius is currently being trained as a non-commissioned officer for his compulsory military service and is thinking of a career as a police officer or in social services. As a mother I am particularly glad that both are still actively involved in their childhood hobbies: with Sohvi it is circus and with Severi football. My husband, the non-fiction writer and entrepreneur Erkki Alaja, is known as a pioneer in sports marketing and managing.

Helsinki City Marathon, 2008. Photo from the family album of Tuuli Merikoski.


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