Born in Kopřivnice, a small town in Moravia, Emil Zátopek discovered running by pure chance at the age of sixteen while working for a shoe company. Inspired by legends of the immortal Paavo Nurmi, the most light-footed of the Flying Finns, he set out to perfect his ungainly stride and make it the most effective in the world. Zátopek’s unlikely ascension in the sport of running was replete with fatigue and victory, but he would go on to unforgettable performances that were never to be repeated or bested. "An athlete cannot run with money in his pockets," Zátopek stated. "He must run with hope in his heart and dreams in his head."
In the Finnish summer of 1952, hope, heart, dreams, and head came together to produce one of the most remarkable feats in sporting history. Wearing KARHU and representing Czechoslovakia, Emil “The Terrible” dominated the Helsinki Games by winning the 5,000 and 10,000 meters and setting new Olympic records in both. But Zátopek didn't stop there. At the last minute, he opted to participate in the most iconic race of the five-ring event—the marathon. Zátopek had never run – at least during an official race – the 42 kilometers inspired by the ancient exploits of Pheidippides.
Step by step, Zátopek first hooked onto the world record holder, Jim Peters, and settled into the same pace. After a quick exchange of words, “The Locomotive” sped off toward his third, unexpected gold medal and yet another Olympic record. Peters would later recount that, passing their first 15 kilometers together, Zátopek asked how their pace was going. "Too slow," the Briton answered in jest. So Zátopek sped up and never looked back.
"If you want to win something, you can run the 100 meters. If you want to enjoy a true experience, run a marathon." Zátopek would later be elected the “Greatest Runner of All Time” by popular vote. Those days of sports glory will likely remain unmatched—a legacy of extraordinary character and both physical and mental might; a legacy for Karhu destined for eternity; and a legacy for athletics worldwide.