My experience of 10MILA 1981 – Sverker Tirén

Early May 1981, there was no sun over Garpenberg. Instead there was grey, deep snow and freezing cold. This city of old mines is geographically placed very high. Going to south Kungsängen, I thought it would be warmer.

After Bro came a surprisingly big sign, ”10MILA”. I was right. I turned off the highway but soon stopped, hesitating. I calculated my arrival, and thought of a strategic visit to the toilets before my last leg in Hellas’s first team. That’s how it was, all the club’s seniors and juniors ran the first legs, and a pretty good 35 year old man had to run the last leg.

It wasn’t only snow. There was so much mud on the parking fields. Eivin Retsloff, one of my team mates that I miss very much now 31 years later, was a functionary and let me place my red SImca 508 on a better parking.

Eivin also gave me a small flashlight. ”You could need light for your map”, he said putting the very nice and for sure expensive light in the front pocket of my nylon trousers. When I later started running I found the light heavy to run with, it was distracting me. I held it in my compass hand first, then I let it fall to the ground, to be hidden and forgot in the snow.

I could read the map well; my team wasn’t really as fast as winning OK Ravinen. The darkness Lasse Lönnkvist ran through earlier, was now more of a bright dawn. The first control, a stone I think, was in quite open terrain. Suddenly the control was there in front of me.
There was no drama during my race, but I ran the wrong way at the control next to the competition center. My club mates screamed but seemed pretty entertained. It was embarrassing. I ran together with my ex- club mate Pelle Ljungström, who I think ran for Kumla OK. It was a fight, a lot of prestige being the best. I passed the finish line before him, the displayed showed me “100”. Good, among the hundred best. And I hadn’t lost very much time to the leaders, maybe 12 minutes?
I was frozen after the finish, not willing to wander through the mud and snow to some kind of outdoor shower, and then do my duty as a functionary (my club was organizers). Lasse Lönnkvist (who won with OK Ravinen 1981 and other years too), was one of the people who got my respect after doing his duty as an organizer. Our leaders in Hellas used to point it out, that all the elite club’s runners certainly should work with the competition. In the opposite of what they said to us mediocre runners in Hellas.

I went back to my Simca, happily drank my hot and sweet coffee, ate frozen cheese sandwiches, chocolate and a banana, and thought of that flashlight. I assessed it as definitely lost. I started my car, driving away with mud splashing all around the tires.

In the rearview mirror i saw Eivin Retsloff’s face, with a suprised look I’ll never forget.
I started driving back to Garpenberg, the car was warm and drowsy. Quite soon I stopped for a nap, but after ten minutes I woke up freezing.

Afterwards I heard about Hasse Nilsson, the strong runner who got ran the last leg in Nyköpings OK’s lag, and who ran the Marathon in 2.16. I heard the story about him suddenly stopping, in the end of the course, and froze stuck in his place. He fell down just as a cut tree. A young runner, James Brown, who ran for OL Pan, happened to be the only one to witness this. He discontinued his race when he saw Hans Nilsson lying motionless with his face in the snow. James Brown carried Hans to a path, where he got more help.

At the hospital Karolinska sjukhuset, it was confirmed that Hans Nilsson’s body temperature was 31 degrees.

James Brown felt guilty for stopping, not finishing his race. His team was disqualified. He felt like a betrayer, and he felt some kind of shame. He left 10MILA, “I didn’t want to say it was me”, he told me thirty years later, in 10MILA 2011. He has MS since many years back, so he struggled to keep up with the others in the VIP when we were going out to watch the young runners in the tiomila-night.

James Brown was (and is) very kind, he spoke modest about that happening 30 years ago. I didn’t know how to show my respect. My admiration and helplessness almost came out as tears.

What about Eivin Retsloff? Precisely after passing the finish line in Höstlunken, November 2010, I received a text message that his life, after 81 years, was over. Cancer won. In my memories I could see his surprised face when I abandoned that miserable 10MILA. It must have been other people cleaning it all up? In all snow and mud. Sure it was, when I was so tired after my long and crucial last leg.

An extract from Tiréns Tirader, Sverker Tiréns blog on Hellas Orientering’s webpage.


Picture by Rune Palm, the functionaries are working in the mud

Name: Sverker Tirén

Club: Hellas Orientering

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