PerĂ¤kylĂ¤n Ponnistus, loosely translated as the Backwood Hillbillies, is a sports club that specializes in both world-class and nonsense sports. It is registered in the city of Espoo, Finland, but it operates world-wide (see ***** footnote). The purpose of the club is to support the physical and mental well-being of its members. This is achieved by the organisation of, and participation in, different kinds of activities, such as:
The clubÂ’s motto is Â“Tosissaan mutta ei vakavastiÂ”, which essentially means that the members always strive to give their best efforts when taking part in any activity, but without taking things too seriously. That is, the basis for participation is to have fun, even when things get tough.
The origin of the globally (and why not universally?) respected PerĂ¤kylĂ¤n Ponnistus -club was the result two key phases, each one equally as dysfunctional as the other. The result could be nothing but suffering. However, we all know that misery loves company, right?
The clubÂ’s spiritual leader,Â Suinulan TerĂ¤smiesÂ (or the Â‘Superman of SuinulaÂ’), participated in the famous Sulkavan Soutu -rowing competition many times during the 1980s. One year, which might have been either 1984 or 1985, when he was signing up for the rowing race, he pondered whether a true sportsmenÂ’s club should be established to cater for people like himself. Well, he decided that there should be and so he established the PerĂ¤kylĂ¤n Ponnistus (Backwood Hillbillies) sports club, although the exact mental processes leading to this final determination have been lost forever since they were never documented. However, over the years, many have speculated over this and many of the associated stories, which may be true, partly true, or then even totally false, have become almost the stuff of legend. Perhaps one day you might get the chance to hear one of the better versions, maybe when sitting around a campfire late in the evening in a Finnish forest when the bears are out looking for something to eat.
In the 1980s, Suinalan TerĂ¤smies organised a group of electrical engineers, all apparently suffering from the same kind of tangled mental circuitry as himself, into a team to take part in the LĂ¤nsivĂ¤ylĂ¤ running race, which is held each spring along Espoo CityÂ’s western distributor highway.
It must be noted that the team did suffer some hiccups in those early years, when the members were attending engineering school and were mainly due to problems caused by their study programmes, with one being the ridiculously trivial and inconvenient matter of graduation. However, despite these unfortunate barriers to progress, an executive decision was made to continue the insanity outside the safety of the learning institute (note: not to be confused with mental institute). From this point on, the real adult version of PerĂ¤kylĂ¤n Ponnistus was born. In other words, all the childish behaviour of the early years was left behind forever (Â… or so it was believed).
To continue the transition into adulthood, the clubÂ’s official registration was finalized in the late winter of 1996, although the first ever official meeting had already been held on the 1st November, 1995. Also, since the Finnish language is not that easy for anyone except Finns (and maybe Estonians, Ahvenanmaalaiset, and perhaps some of the worldÂ’s illumined illuminati) to get their heads around, a decision was made to also create an English language name for the club; and that name is the Â‘Backwood HillbilliesÂ’. Yep, the name says it all, doesnÂ’t it?br>
The Backwood Hillbillies organizes a range of events throughout the year, some mainly for club members, but also quite a few that are open to the general public, or the Â‘unenlightened folkÂ’, as some members refer to them. The main ones are the following:
The Stairway to Heaven
This running race is held annually up, over and around the Malminkartano hill in Helsinki usually during the first or second week of June. The 10 km course is a rather tough one as it includes about 350 m of vertical climbing and descent over its 6 loops. The name of the race comes from the final ascent up the 427 step stairway to the top of the hill. The race attracts all sorts (no offence) who seem to love suffering just as much as the club members do, but the organizers try their very best to support them by providing both water and puke buckets at the top, even allowing them to use both if they desire. Note: the race is also affectionately called Stairway to HellÂ by many who have enjoyed the experience just that little bit more than others. For many information on the race, click here.
The MasochistÂ’s Dream
This running race, in Finnish Masokistin Unelma, is Backwood Hillbillies' premier event of the year. ItÂ’s a 100 km ultrarunning race in the forest paths of PaloheinĂ¤ in Helsinki. The 100 km race, which is made up of fifty-five 1.8 km loops held over a rather flat course, is usually held in fairly warm conditions (according to Finnish standards at least), and so easily qualifies to be included in the clubÂ’s event calendar of suffering. To describe in best, it is a case of pure indulgence for the select few who get the privilege to take part. The race is held in August each year, but due to the limited number of places, it usually sells out in May or early June at the latest. For more information on the race clickÂ here.
The MammothÂ’s March
MammothÂ’s March (in Finnish Mammuttimarssi) is an adventure type race that requires some orienteering skills to be able to stay on course and to find the various challenges that need to be completed.
The Augustus the Strong Memorial Race
This race, also called the "Majakka ja Sivuvaunu", is all about combining two of our favourite forms of forward propulsion, which are running and cycling. Basically, the format is as follows. Each team is made up of two people (male, female or mixed) and a regular bicycle, whatever that means. In any case, no electrically or fuel powered or even kick bikes are allowed, but weÂ’re totally fine with unicycles. The idea is to cover the 22 km course with one person cycling and the other one running with the freedom to swap over at any time. The total time taken for the course is when both team members (as well as the bike) have crossed the finish line. This race, if you could even call it that, is usually held in late April or early May each year. For more information on the race, clickÂ here.
The Yksykli Open
This is Finland's premier unicycling competition and no one organizes one better than the Backwood Hillbillies well-oiled one wheeler event management crew. It should also be very publically announced that since it turned out to be Finland's only unicycling race, by default it naturally earned the title of the Â‘Finnish ChampionshipsÂ’. Surprisingly, Backwood Hillbillies is Finland's only internationally recognized unicycling organization. Oh yeh, we said it, we meant it, and weÂ’re here to represent it!
The ChildrenÂ’s Olympics
This is a fun day for each and every young future sufferer, where running, long jump and throwing competitions are organized for 0-10 year olds (yes, if you can throw or spit even a dummy then you are eligible to take part). This event is usually organized in the month of June. Some last minute entries at the venue may be permitted, but we aim to have parents register their young future hillbillies so that we can make sure that they all get a trophy and, more importantly an ice-cream, at the end.
Other events organized by the club include
Although we may seem like a very clandestine, illuminati type society, the really big secret is that the Backwood Hillbillies is not that secret a club at all. However, membership is not granted automatically by the simple filling out of a guaranteed application and the payment of the clubsÂ’s membership fee. Instead, prospective club members are required to write (note: wit purfectk speltink ant grĂ¤mmer) a free form application in an attempt to prove their worthiness to become a Backwood Hillbilly, including the degree of their sense of humour and their lack of common sense. A recommendation from at least one member is also needed and applicants must also somehow prove that they are in better shape (physical and maybe mental) than the clubÂ’s most out of shape member (although some founding members have made meeting this criteria so ridiculously easy that hardly anyone ever gets challenged on this point).
We are now in fact so well known on the international scene, that our club name has been translated by our fans around the world into their own local languages. As they say, a much loved child has many names! Such is the universal love for the Backwood Hillbillies that it transcends all borders, amour sans frontieres if you will!
If you donÂ’t see your language translation on the list (but would really, really like to), please email us with your translation suggestion. Our advisory board will prod and probe it (most likely for a rather extended period of time as they find the process quite enjoyable), to finally make a decision on your suggestionÂ’s accuracy and suitability. If it passes our boardÂ’s extremely stringent analysis (which could almost in fact be called an ultra-analysis), you just might be lucky enough to make your language and country famous!
Suunnittelu ja toteutus: LintukylĂ¤n Kurko, Tampereen Ilves ja Suinulan TerĂ¤smies