BY TODD LUHR, JR., EUROPE BUREAU CHIEF
Lapin Laani, Finland- The hugely influential Finnish runner-mime Matti “Mikki” Mikkimatti has died, at the age of 69, after a drawn out battle with chafing and bunyans. The chafing and bunyans had nothing to do with why he died; he had just been battling them recently. He actually died from drowning, after he fell through a newly-frozen lake in the Peekaleeka District in central Finland.
Mr. Mikkimatti’s running career spanned an amazing five decades. Just last week, in fact, he scored yet another win in South Sudan’s “Run Until You Literally Drop” Ultramarathon.
Most sports fans came to know him in the 80s, when he rose to international superstardom with a string of top 10 finishes and a new, clean-cut look. But that was just another phase in a long and inspirational career.
Born Mikki “Matti” Mattimikki somewhere in the vast forests of Lapin Laani in 1947, he changed his name to Matti “Mikki” Mikkimatti because he felt it sounded more American. He honed his skills in several running groups around the Finnish countryside, often dressed as a flamboyant reindeer herder.
He began making headlines when he jog-mimed his way to the top of Halti, Finland’s highest peak, as Siggi Seaspray – his famous pansexual merman-from-Murmansk persona.
His outrageousness made the usually somber Finns briefly look up from the ground. Nobody had ever managed to do that before.
As he morphed from persona to persona, he became known in Finland as the birch leaf of running, because of that leaf’s tendency to change appearance throughout the year.
Mikkimatti won the Turku Marathon as his Salacious Salted Cod persona; set several records in the 70s as the Thin White Ski-Jumper; and, in the early 2000s, won the Southwestern States two years in a row dressed as a Nokia flip-phone.
He did suffer a few major embarrassments in his career: He had a very public struggle with elderberry addiction in the 70s; a sauna addiction in the early 80s; and, most recently, an addiction to an internationally top-ranked education-system.
While he was known to the world as a larger-than-life celebrity runner-pantomime, his son remembers him as just a regular guy: “He liked just very mundane, typical Finnish things, like diving naked into frozen lakes, rolling naked in the snow, going naked cross-country skiing, suntanning naked by the lake when it gets above freezing, and reindeer-skiing. Naked. You know, just a normal Finnish guy.”
*The Heel Strike’s just joking with you: We love everything single thing about Finland. Finland’s the best. And we are literally holding back tears at this very moment for Bowie. We just have an odd way of expressing ourselves.