Burt Carlson enjoyed a long and satisfying career as a mechanical engineer at 3M Company designing mechanical facilities for many of the company's plants, retiring at the age of 65. He ran his first of many marathons at the age of 57 and often combined his love of adventure and travel with his long distance running avocation.
Now in 2007, at age 81, Burt has completed 235 marathon races (26.2 miles) plus 52 ultra marathons (races longer than 26.2 miles) in all 50 states plus 9 foreign countries. The ultra marathons included distances of 100 km (62.1 miles), 50 mile road and trail races, and 24 hour races at distances up to 84 miles.
In 1989 Burt was invited to join Team Minnesota and compete in the World Masters Games in Denmark. The games included 5500 masters athletes from 50 different countries. Burt earned medals in the triathlon and the steeplechase and also competed in the marathon and 10,000 meter track races.
In 1990 Minnesota was host to the Edmund Fitzgerald 100 kilometer world championship road race with 150 ultra marathon runners, including elite runners from many foreign countries, competing in this event. At age 65 Burt ran this 100 km race in 12 hours 16 minutes and had a 50 mile split time of 9 hours 15 minutes. Burt is believed to be the first over 65 year old in Minnesota to have ever run this race distance. The above times established new Minnesota age group records that are still in effect today (2007).
To date Burt has won age group national championships in 9 ultra marathons and 2 marathons. In 1996 he won three of the above championships; a 100 km road race, 50 mile trail race and a 24 hour road race (76.3 miles).
In 2003 Burt was recognized as a Minnesota Running Legend by the American Lung Association Running Club and in 2006 he was recognized as one of the age-group Runners Of The Year by the Minnesota Distance Running Association. His most recent national championship was winning the 2006 Twin Cities Marathon in the 80 + age group. He also has held national records at the 100 km and 12 hour distances.
Burt regularly attends our Central Pioneer Luncheons and could relate many stories about his running experiences from around the world and the many athletes he has met. (Ask him about the time brandy froze during a winter ski and camping trip in the Rocky Mountains and in Kazakhstan where the six day stage race on mountain trails was supposed to end deep inside Kirghizstan but had to be aborted because of bandits on the trail). In Medoc, France runners are offered wine (instead of water) at all the aid stations. He also ran marathons in Athens, Paris, London, Antarctica, Hong Kong and other exotic places including northern Canada 480 miles north of the Arctic Circle where he ran a double marathon (52 miles). These marathons all have stories waiting to be told.
Burt plans to run 10 marathons a year until he no longer can meet the race cut-off times or until his body tells him "enough", and then he will enjoy many wonderful memories of a very full life after his "retirement".
Contributed by John Leak, CHS 1943