17-year-old Finn runs first marathon in world-class time

Alisa Vainio, a 17-year-old from the eastern border city of Lappeenranta, ran her first-ever marathon in a sports competition on Saturday. Her time at the finish line clocked in at just over 2 hours and 33 minutes, the sixth best time recorded in Finnish history. It is also enough to qualify for the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro - if only she was of age. 

Juoksija Alisa Vainio Lappeenrannan Kimpisen kentällä.
Long-distance runner Alisa Vainio trains with the regional track and field team of Lappeenrannan Urheilu-miehet ry. Image: Yle

Alisa Vainio ran the first competitive marathon of her life on Saturday in Joutseno, southern Finland. The 17 year old crossed the finish line with a jaw-dropping time of 2.33.24, the sixth fastest time in Finnish history.

The cut-off time for participating in the 2016 Olympic games next summer in Brazil is 2.36.00, but according to International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) rules, both male and female runners must be born on or before 1996 to qualify. The same rules apply to the 50 kilometre race walk event.

At 17, Vainio just missed the bar, as she was born in 1997. The purpose of the age limit is to protect young athletes.

An elite runner in several other endurance events, Vainio can however participate in other events in Rio de Janeiro next summer if she qualifies. Because she was born before 1999, she can participate in the 10,000-metre run if she achieves a qualifying time of 32 minutes and 15 seconds or less.

Earlier this year, she won the bronze in the 3,000 metre hurdles at the European Championships, and in August she won first place in the Finnish championship in the 10,000 metres. 

After crossing the finish line Saturday, the soft-spoken Vainio took the news of her extraordinary achievement in stride.

“I guess I needed to blow off some steam after my matriculation exams,” she later posted on Twitter.

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