Park City native continues to push limits following 1,000-mile bike ride across Europe
Extreme sports are part of Blair Rajamaki’s DNA. Ever since she was in high school in Park City, cross-country skiing, mountain biking and biathlon were her main activities.
So her mom was not shocked when she decided to embark on a 1,000-mile bike ride across Europe, an event that took place from late June to early July.
“She’s done a lot of extreme sports growing up and even to this day, so this came as no surprise when she told me what she was doing,” said Sally Rajamaki, Blair’s mother. “She’s always been an out-of-the-box, march-to-her-own-beat type of kid who’s done unique things, and I think that’s who she’s going to be the rest of her life.”
For Blair, 34, the ride was bigger than herself; it was for a Nordic charity event called God Morgon, which raises funds for seriously injured children. Blair rode for Team Rynkeby, a group from Finland that supports young people and their families in their fight against cancer.
“It’s amazing to be part of a group that gives back to such a great cause,” Blair said. “I love riding, especially with the group that we have, it just makes you want to keep going because you know it’s for a great cause.”
The event was planned as an eight-day, 1,000-mile bike ride from Helsinki, Finland, to Paris, but Blair did the same thing she’s done with everything else in her life: more.
She started her journey at the Finland’s border with Russia after spending a few days at her boyfriend’s parent’s house. She left their house and rode for a few extra days to meet up with the rest of her cycling team in a small town in Finland. From there, she and her team rode another two days to Helsinki and met up with the other Finnish teams participating in the charity event. Then it was an the eight-day journey, where the riders averaged 125 miles per day before ending up in Paris with all of the other teams participating.
“It was extremely organized so that made it a lot easier for us,” Blair said. “We had 30 riders on our team and then seven support staff who were with us the whole time. … Even having a guy who drove a refrigerated truck the entire time so we always had food and then a physical therapist to help us recover.”
In all, Blair rode for 14 days, covering 1,128 miles, all for a charity that is near to her heart considering her educational background in nursing.
After graduating from Park City High School in 2003, Blair eventually ended up at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, graduating with a degree in nursing before getting a master’s degree in Sweden. She now lives in Finland where she’s working on Alzheimer’s disease research as part of a PhD program.
Combining her love of extreme sports and nursing is something Blair realized she wanted to do at a young age.
When she was 15, she was part of an exchange program that sent her to live in Sweden for a year. She fell in love with the country and knew she’d be back again someday.
“That exchange trip really changed my life. … It opened up my eyes to a whole other part of the world,” Blair said. “Even though I was young, I knew I was going to go back again and with the sports they did there, especially the biathlon, it was a perfect fit.”
For her mother Sally, it was clear Blair was “different” long before the trip to Sweden.
It started when Blair was in fourth grade, seven years before Salt Lake City hosted the Olympics. Athletes of different winter sports went to local elementary schools to talk about what they did and drum up excitement in the community.
Instead of being interested in the skiing, snowboarding or ice skating, like most of her peers, Blair became smitten with a sport that was a relative unknown in America: biathlon.
“It was interesting because she came home that day and the first thing she said was, ‘Mom, this is what I want to do,’” Sally said. “Not very many people knew what it was back then, but in Europe biathletes were rockstars, so that’s when I thought that this kid is pursuing a unique and individual sport, so there’s definitely something different about her, but in the best possible way.”
Growing up in Park City helped foster Blair’s interest in active sports. In addition to her interest in biathlon, she participated in cross-country skiing and biked competitively.
“Park City gave me the ability to get out and enjoy the outdoors. … Growing up with all it has to give at your back door, I did not understand how easy it was to get out and play, didn’t know how easy it was until I moved away,” Blair said. “It gave me the realization that I had so much I could do there. … I was given the opportunities to really challenge myself and it’s continued on later in life. I have so much appreciate for Park City and how I grew up.”
She has no plans of slowing down.
After completing the cycling event in Paris, Blair and Sally took a mini European vacation where they ended up on the island of Guernsey, an island in the English Channel near the French coast. While visiting and exploring the island, Blair came to the realization that her next great adventure was right in front of her.
“I got the idea that it would be a lot of fun to do an ultra-marathon here,” Blair said. “The perimeter of the island is 31 miles so that seems a lot of fun but I don’t know, we’ll see.”
Sally recalled Blair saying she was going to run the ultra-marathon while they were visiting Guernsey, and much like she felt when Blair was in fourth grade and interested in biathlon, nothing Blair does surprises her.
“When Blair says she’s going to do something, she does it and that’s something that I love about her. She’s found a group of people in Finland that have that ‘sisu’ just like her,” Sally said, referencing a Finnish term for determination and grit. “She’s found that there with a group of people who are all like her, who all do the same thing so yes, nothing surprises me anymore and I don’t doubt that she’ll do it.”
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Over the last 12 years, the National Ability Center has funded organized and hosted the Summit Challenge, a bike ride for participants of all abilities.