On March 18, 1944, a Finnish ski patrol troop was ambushed behind Russian lines. They managed to flee during the ensuing battle, but the Russian forces pursued them, resulting in a classic ski pursuit.
The odds were stacked against the fleeing Finn, who was still deep in enemy territory. Aimo Koivunen, a Finnish soldier, was fatigued when he realized he had the entire troop’s supply of Pervitin (aka methamphetamine) tucked inside his pocket. This medicine was administered to soldiers at the time in order to keep them alert while on duty. He popped the lot like Popeye devouring a giant can of spinach – he hadn’t wanted to take all of them, but it was impossible to pull out every individual pill while being followed in the cold, especially while wearing mittens.
His energy level quickly increased, perhaps unsurprisingly given that he had just taken 30 times the recommended dose of methamphetamine. Koivunen, who was leading the troop and breaking the snow for the rest of them, helped the entire pack move much faster. But you can’t take a big overdose and expect the only adverse effect to be “very amazing at skiing.” He immediately realized that his vision was skewed and that he was losing consciousness.
The next thing he remembers is being 100 kilometers (62 miles) away, with no ammunition, no food, and absolutely alone. Whatever had transpired in the meantime, he had managed to lose his entire squad.
Koivunen got up and started skiing across the forest by himself, still at a good clip. The medicine had ruined his appetite, which was fortunate given his lack of food. For the next three days, he survived by eating pine buds and a small Siberian jay he’d caught raw.
He managed to elude the Russian forces who were pursuing him while still under the influence, but he stepped on a landmine. He lay there, disoriented and passing out from time to time, until he realized no one was coming to aid him. His resolve, combined with dangerously high levels of methamphetamine in his system, got him out of the ditch and kept him going through the frigid weather.
He had traveled 400 kilometers by the time he was discovered (250 miles). In a Finnish hospital, his heart rate was judged to be an astonishing (or worrisome) 200 beats per minute, and he weighed only 43 kilograms (94 pounds).
But he lived to be 72, still unable to recall how he lost his entire regiment while skiing through the forest and completely off his face on speed.
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