Brian crossing the Split Rock River during the 2017 Superior 100 Mile Trail Race – Photo Credit Cole Peyton
Brian Landstrom passed away peacefully and with dignity at home in Duluth on Christmas Day 2021, he was 70 years old. While Brian led a vibrant life outside of running, this remembrance is specific to his passion for running, his relationships with his close running friends and the local running community as a whole.
Endurance and ultra-distance running can manifest as opportunities to explore, find, exceed, and expand our limits, to sit with what does not belong, and to find our true selves before we leave this Earth. Trail running can be a practice of moving meditation, Spirit embodied in flesh, moving through the natural world, one step at a time, one breath at a time, in the One Moment. Running can heal the woundedness of this world within us, bringing such gifts as sobriety, humility, purpose, presence, connectedness, and community. With practice and suffering comes mastery, and with mastery comes transcendence. We run among connected sisters and brothers with such mastery. Brian Landstrom is one of these masters, a true OG. With his recent passing, our community remembers a generous and gifted brother that found healing, joy, and purpose in running – short and long distances, on pavement or soil, at any time of year. Whether we realize it or not, we all carry a bit of Brian’s legacy with us. He is remembered here and on our runs with love, gratitude, and admiration.
Brian started actively running in his early to mid 30’s, after making what he called a “lifestyle change” that involved quitting alcohol and tobacco. “Running just kinda got under my fingernails a bit,” he said. “What I like about running is you put one foot in front of the other, and then repeat.” His first race was the Bridgeman Five Miler in the late 1980’s in Duluth. Soon after, at a race called the Hoghead, he met Dan Doty and Harry Sloan. He ran Twin Cities Marathon and Grandma’s Marathon and then moved to trails, although he would continue to consistently run both marathons throughout his lifetime.
“Hearing what Harry Sloan was doing,” he said. “I got drawn into the ultras,” He said that he was drawn to the longer distances by two things, the trail community and exploring how far he could push his body. Brian’s first ultra was Voyageur 50 in 1989 – he finished that race 17 times with his first finish in 1989 and his last finish in 2019. He also had nearly 25 finishes at the Eugene Curnow Marathon. With all those Curnow/Voyager finishes, he loved finding someone who hadn’t run the race at the beginning and helping them along. He was a jokester too – he might tell them after the first couple hills that the rest of the course was flat. He finished Superior 100 five times, his first finish was 1992 and his last was in 2018 at age 67. He is tied with select few (including his close friend Harry Sloan) for oldest finisher of the Superior 100. Brian also had 100 mile finishes at Zumbro and Kettle Moraine.
He was a mainstay at Curnow, Voyageur, Ice Age, Grandma’s, and Superior. What’s noticeable about looking at his list of races is first, it takes a lot of scrolling – he ran a lot of races for a lot of years, especially for a guy who didn’t start running competitively until his thirties. It’s obvious that he loved racing, the social aspect, running with friends and visiting before and after the race. He also wasn’t a guy who spent time recovering from races – when one race was finished he was looking at the next start line. The other thing that stands out is that he wasn’t a guy who traveled far to race. Nearly all the races he ran were based in Minnesota and Wisconsin, with his furthest trips to the Black Hills. The Midwest trail running community was Brian’s home, he loved running with friends, and he was rich with friendships.
– Introduction written by Jason Husveth. Brian’s running history researched, compiled and written by Kevin Langton. A huge thank you to the Duluth Rundown Podcast Episode #18 featuring Brian Landstrom for some of the facts cited.
Brian’s appearance on the Duluth Rundown Podcast Episode #18
Brian’s obituary in the Duluth News Tribune
Please read on for remembrances…
In most of the pictures of Brian taken at races he was surrounded by others, smiles all around – there was a reason for that. Brian truly valued the camaraderie, friendship and time spent with his trail brothers and sisters. Photo Credit Jamison Swift
Tributes and Remembrances:
I first met Brian at the Hoghead road race in Proctor, Minnesota approximately 35 years ago. Shortly thereafter we hooked up and started to run together regularly. We trained and ran many races together throughout the years – there were so many good times and memories. Brian loved the sport of running on and off of the trail, although I believe his true passion was the trail. Most of our training was done at the Chester Bowl area in Duluth. We would meet there, often join up with a few other runners (Harry Sloan, a regular) and punish our way up and down the hills and steps, over the rocks and roots in the summer, and through the snow and ice on snowshoes in the winter. During these runs we did a lot of talking. The subject matters were numerous. We had code though: “What was said on the trail stayed on the trail”. Throughout the years, we trained and ran many races together. Brian loved going to races and making new friends. He was very social and loved to share his running experiences with others. He was a true ambassador for the sport. Brian’s determination was admirable. I can say that I have never seen anyone in such physical agony during a race who still finished. There were very few races he didn’t complete. The Superior 100 Mile Trail Race is one of them. It is truly a difficult, challenging course. During one of the early years of this race Brian decided to “go for it.” I was not running with him that year. Instead, I was helping Harry Sloan complete and check the ribboning of the course. I was at the Tettegouche State Park aid station when the lead runner came through. Shortly behind him, to my surprise was Brian. I’ll never forget our conversation. I asked him what the heck he was doing. He said that he was trying out Sloan’s philosophy of “go out balls to the wall, and hang on.” Brian said that he was feeling good. I told him that he should, but reminded him that he had over 80 miles to go. Fast forward two days later. I had heard that Brian hadn’t finished. I talked to him on the phone. He had made it 70 plus miles before dropping. He told me, “Dan, I hurt so bad that even my teeth hurt.” Brian had given it his all. He didn’t fail. He had tried, but just didn’t finish. I’m sure that there are many who have Brian stories to tell. I know that I have a lifetime of Brian stories and memories. Brian is gone now, but he will continue to be with me on the “Trail of life”. Oh, to have one more run at the “Bowl” with him. – Dan Doty
One of my memories of running with Brian is that he was the only person I have run with who could literally fall asleep while he was running. During the early morning hours of a race (4:00 AM to daylight) you could be talking to him and watch him catch himself as he was falling asleep. More than once I thought for sure he would drop at the next aid station only to see him continue on and come daybreak, get his energy back. Brian was always a treat to run with and always had something positive to say to keep you motivated. – Harry Sloan
Ever since Brian’s passing, I’ve been thinking a lot about the wonderful friendship he and I shared. Having spent so many miles together on the trails over the years you get to know a person pretty good. Brian was the consummate friend; he cared more about others than he did himself. The sincerity of his friendship and love with the trail community was always on display. He so much enjoyed talking with other runners and getting to know them; both veterans, but especially trail newbies. He would ask questions and offer advice about anything trail related. He was a good trail runner, but an even better human being. May his memory always be a blessing. Rest In Peace my friend. OG forever! – Jeff Goldstein
Brian and I first met and became friends while venturing to the Ice Age 50 Trail Run with Harry Sloan and a host of other “30 somethings” back in the late 1980’s. Our pre-race motel was the Black Steer. Brian always managed to keep things loose while staying in this flop motel. Never a dull moment; however, when the gun went off he, we were all business. Whether it was Ice Age, Grandmas, Curnow, Voyageur or Superior 100, and other races, Brian made the events memorable. I cannot give you one particular memory because Brian was always in a state of gratitude and thanks to be sharing the trail life with me and others. Later on I had the pleasure of pacing Brian to finishes at Superior 100 in 2017 and 2018. He was such joy to be around! Brian not only was a fierce competitor, but a deeply faithful Christian man who loved to humbly share his life experiences with others, including the good, bad and ugly while running for hours on end. I think the contemporary Christian band “For King and Country” have an album that sums up Brian’s way of life… “Run Wild. Live Well. Love Strong.” His bigger than life personality will be sorely missed on those long meaningful runs that strip us of all pretense and reveal that true inner person. – Jim Stocco
Brian introduced me to the world of trail and ultra-running. He generously shared his knowledge, became my mentor, and one of my best comrades on the trail. Brian “is” (I can’t bring myself to say “was”) always patient with my strong preferences regarding the location, distance, and start-time of our training runs. We went through thick and thin, fighting to the end of races like Superior 100, Kettle Moraine 100, Hitchcock 100, Zumbro 100 and more. I simultaneously find myself crying over the loss of my trail friend and laughing, remembering how much fun we had together. Brian wasn’t a perfect person – none of us are! I didn’t totally agree with all his views, but I was able to learn from Brian’s bright life, to fully enjoy my time on the trails, good day or bad day, finish or DNF. “Brian, why are we doing this?”, his answer “What else would we do on a Saturday night?!” Yes indeed, what else would we do besides run, hike, climb, pull sleds, enjoy life and our time together on the trail. – Irina Boggie
I’m heartbroken to hear of Brian Landstrom’s passing. I have lost a dear friend, but heaven has welcomed a saint. I first met Brian at the 2019 St. Croix 40 Winter Ultra. It was my first winter race and knew nobody. After the gun went off all the racers packed up and vanished into the darkness. I hurried to do the same and found myself pulling up next to Brian. We got to talking about life and faith and discovered we shared a kinship. We stayed together the entire race — pillar to post, and crossed the finish line shoulder to shoulder. Before the race I had asked God to connect me with someone for encouragement or someone I could encourage — I was feeling pretty overwhelmed at the prospect of my first ultra in the cold, alone. Goodness, in the hours of the night I found a fellow brother in Christ, and a friend for life. He was an answer to prayer. Brian was a faithful and firm believer in Jesus Christ. During that first cold trek together I heard his story. Over all of it was the unmistakable fingerprint of Jesus. Near the end of the race when my feet were blistered and hurting he stopped his race to help mine. The man treated my wounds and gave me salve for my feet. If that doesn’t model Jesus Christ, I don’t know what does. After that race Brian and I stayed in touch, he even came to my wedding though he knew nobody. Megan and I were so honored — he found our parents and introduced himself. I can imagine it must have been awkward for him knowing only the bride and groom, but there he was putting others ahead of himself to honor us — that’s Jesus. Brian loved people because he loved God. And the best thing about his life is the legacy of friendship and love he left in its wake. I’m sad he’s gone, but happy the Lord has received him home to glory. One day I’ll get to see him again and give him a big hug and tell him I love him. He made a difference in my life and I’m forever grateful. Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ Goodbye my friend, and as others have said, I’ll see you down the trail. – Joshua Natrop
I met Brian several years ago (circa 2010) through the Minnesota trail and ultra running community. Over the past decades we ran many of the same races, and Brian would always be right there in the mix with me and many of the same characters. Over many races and interchanges, I learned that running, marathoning, endurance and trail running had played a similar healing role in our lives and that we shared much in common on and off the trail. I witnessed with great shared joy as Brian continued to excel at running long and deep into his late 60s (I was pretty sure he was getting faster and better – he certainly was faster and wiser than me). I admire the brotherhood and authentic connectedness that Brian shared (and still shares) with Jeff, Dan, Jim, Irina, Harry, Jeff and, well, just about anyone he shared the trail with. In Brian’s example, I recognize these same relationships that running and sobriety have gifted to me, and I hold them dear. A recent memory I have of Brian is during the 2018 Superior 100. After a tough 80 miles, Brian and I were leap frogging out of the Temperance aid station. I was climbing the south face of Carlton with everything I had left when Brian and Jim Stocco (pacer) came up on me like I was standing still. From the next boulder up, Brian looked back at me with a kind and joyful gleam in his eye, flashed me a silent smile, and then dropped me like a bad habit. I have always been impressed by his ability to run, his ability to connect with others, and to endure to the last mile. I am sending Brian love, I will see you again up the trail at the finish line. – Jason Husveth
Brian was such a smiling fixture at most of our races! He truly embodied the ideals of the trail community – acceptance, fun, and positivity. We were struck with how he would get to know people beyond running. But Brian did love to talk about running as well! From races to courses, to his latest gear acquisition, to how many loops he planned to run at Chester after work. We will miss seeing the Toyota Yaris with the “YARIS” license plates at races. We will miss finding his very recognizable drop bags at aid stations and knowing that we should also look for Jeff and Irina’s, because we should expect them close together. We have seen him tired, triumphant, struggling and frustrated. But he was always gracious, always kind. We never heard him say a bad word about anyone. Races will keep happening of course, but his absence leaves a hole. He showed us that many times, if you just keep moving forward, it is enough. – Northern Minnesota Track Club (NMTC) Committee
A few years back I was running Voyageur and came upon Brian around mile 30. We exchanged the customary “how are you doing” back and forth. He said “great now that I have my favorite combination of trail food.” Gummy bears in one cheek and pickles in the other. My reply of course was that it sounded horrible! “Not at all” Brian said, “sweet and sour at the same time.” I shared with him that I was not doing real well because of some personal struggles that I was having at the time. After sharing a little more with him, Brian asked if he could pray for me. Right there on the trail he unselfishly stopped, placed his hand on my shoulder and said a short prayer. After I said thank you, I told him that if I live to be 100, I can guarantee you that I will never again have someone pray for me with gummy bears and pickles in his mouth. Two things I took away from this brief moment. 1.) Brian was more concerned about someone else’s well being than his personal achievement 2.) His Faith in Jesus was very sincere and important to him. – Jeff Allen, race director of Chippewa Moraine, William O’Brien and Mindy Creek Trail Races.
What really stands out is how much Brian loved running trails and how often we’d see him out there just running trails for the sheer joy of it. I can’t tell you how many times we’d see him running loop after loop on our backyard trails at Chester Park, almost always with his trail running buddy Irina. We’d stop and chat, a smile always on his face. We’d eventually go our separate ways and Brian and Irina would continue on another loop or several. He was a runner who just loved running and the people he shared the trail with. We will really miss seeing his smiling face on the trail. – Andy and Kim Holak, race directors of the Wild Duluth Races, Last Runner Standing, Adventure Running Company
I don’t remember exactly what year it started, but I had taken to calling Brian and those in his entourage “OG’s”. For a while they just kind of glossed over it, until one time Brian approached me, earnestly requiring an explanation. I said, “You know, OG’s Brian!”… he looked a little puzzled… “Like original gangsters, the originals, or better yet, the old guys!”. Brian got the biggest damn smile on his face, like this was one of the greatest things he had ever heard. He and many other OG’s in our local trail running scene went on to embrace it as a term of endearment. The OG’s routinely inspire us like few others, Brian certainly did. We are going to miss you Brian, but promise we will never forget you. See you down the trail. – John Storkamp, Rocksteady Running
Photo Credit Jamison Swift
Photo Credit Fresh Tracks Media
Photo Credit John Storkamp