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Calympians in London: Kari Karlsson, Icelandic Marathon Man

I’ve always admired those jack-of-all-trades athletes who can excel at multiple events. Decathletes, medley swimmers, triathletes – that type of versatility is impressive. Kari Karlsson is Iceland’s Mr. distance. In high school he won championships in the 1500 meters, 3000m, 5000m, 4x800, 4x1500 and half-marathon. That’s five distinct distances. While at Cal, Karlsson ran on the cross country team and tended to run the 5000m and 10,000m on the track team.

So of course he didn’t qualify for the Olympics in any of the above mentioned distances. He’ll be running the marathon in London. That’s a guy that really loves to run, no matter the distance.

I’m guessing that Kari probably could have qualified for the Olympics in a number of distances, but there’s something uniquely cool about being able to say that you’re an Olympic marathoner. The mythology and history of the event means it’s still a marquee event, and one of the greatest thrills each year is watching the runners weave their way through the historic sites of the host city as the games come to their conclusion. Can you tell I’m a little jealous? Granted, you probably don’t get to enjoy the view of the Thames much when you’re on mile 21 out of 26.2, but still. Very cool.

You know what else is cool? Kari is the only Icelandic runner of either gender to qualify for the 2012 games.

Since graduating from Cal Kari has moved back to Reykjavik where he’s been working and training. But you should check out two video interviews he did back when he was running for our Bears. The first is from the Icelandic perspective, and covers everything from what Cal meant for him as a competitor, how the Bay compares to Iceland, and the crazy amount of miles he runs in training (80-110 miles per week!!!)

And the 2nd is from the Cal perspective. My favorite tidbit? "There's not that many homeless people in Iceland, I guess it's too cold."

Three national records? That's nuts. And maybe in a few weeks he'll be able to add another Icelandic national record to his resume. Good luck Kari!