Around the world in 42 years


It seemed like a good idea back in the ’60s when Thor Kommedahl, a former University of Minnesota faculty member in the Department of Plant Pathology, decided to chart how far he jogged each day. He looked up how many miles it would take to jog around the world.

“I found the mileage around the equator and I thought I’d keep going for that,” he said today. He recently met his goal when he jogged his 24,902.55th mile around the University of Minnesota gym. “Of course it took a long time. I’m sure a lot of these marathon runners have done it but they haven’t recorded their mileage.”


Let’s do the math on that. He was 47 years old back then. “Normally if you run four miles a day, five days a week, you can run 1,000 miles a year and it’d take you 25 years to run around the world,” he said. That’s if you don’t factor in the fact that you’re getting older and running four miles a day is a near impossible feat for that long.

Thor Kommedahl is 89. He’s still running.

He didn’t realize that achieving his goal of running the equivalent of around the world was doable until he got to around 15,000 miles in his 70s. “I got to thinking I could live long enough to do that. I kept looking at the equator as a goal and to keep on going. Even though I got into my 80s. Fortunately I’ve had good health and have been able to go to the gym and do that.”

“Obviously, I don’t run as fast or as vigorously as I did when I was younger. I used to run four miles a day,” he said today. “In my early 80s, I’d run three miles a day and now I’m down to two miles a day.”

He’s seen a lot of changes at the gym over that time. When he started hardly anybody else was jogging. Then Kenneth H. Cooper wrote the book, Aerobics, and “it was like you almost couldn’t get a locker anymore. Jogging was kind of a fad there for awhile,” he said.

He doesn’t see as many people jogging as he used to; it might because more people are using machines, now. “Running around the gym is kind of a boring event,” he acknowledges. “You’re just running in circles, but the social part is kind of fun. There are other people there who are running. The gym is a very friendly atmosphere.”

Especially if you have a cheering section:


Mr. Kommedahl is still running his two miles a day.

“I’d like to go to 25,000 because 24, 902 isn’t an even number,” he said. “So at least I’d like to run to 25,000. I just want to keep going for my health. I feel good from running. I sleep better. I eat better. I recover better from minor illnesses. I just think it’s a good healthy program.”

On Friday at 2 p.m., the university will honor Mr. Kommedahl with a party and a plaque.


· How he achieved his goal.

· The original goal was 1,000 miles per year.

· What’s the next goal?

· Was there any point where he didn’t think he’d make his goal?

· The changing nature of exercise.

(Photos courtesy of the University of Minnesota)

  • Kim E

    Clearly all that running has paid off! I looked at the picture and then I looked at his age and thought “He does not look 89!” Congrats Thor, keep on running!

  • Chris Follett

    I have known Thor for 43 years – he is a wonderful person, great sense of humor, obviously of good Norwegian stock. Go Thor!!

  • RM

    Wow, great story — the guy looks absolutely amazing for age 89!

  • Carol Johansen

    Way to go, Thor. You’re great!

  • EF

    Wow…. how cool is that?

  • Linda Kinkel


    Awesome! I have been running for many years, and can only hope to still be at it when I am in my 80’s.

    All this and a great plant pathologist, too! Congratulations, and thanks for setting the bar high.

    Linda Kinkel

  • AC

    I worked at this gym for 5 1/2 years and saw Thor everyday – he’s such an inspiration and everyone who works/has worked at the SPG will remember him forever!

    Congratulations Thor and thank you for your continued inspiration!

    Love the SPG Staff

  • Sylvia Crannell

    There’s no mention in this article of the marathon Thor runs for the Science Museum of Minnesota! For over 20 years–as a volunteer–he has been the backbone behind “Bog Hopper,” a weekly science publication for K-12 educators. His knowledge seems endless and he’s forever introducing me to some new technology or fascinating fact.

    Thor is truly a remarkable man and my life is richer because he’s in it. Keep running, Thor!

  • David Lang

    I remember Thor’s dedication from the early 1970’s. Everyone should also know that he is as remarkable as a professor and teacher as he is a runner – archetypical might be the right word. Congratulations Thor! David Lang, one of his many gradutate students.

  • Lois

    Thanks for the inspiration. I need to ‘begin’ . and thanks so much for the ‘bog hopper’ information regularly.

  • Hans Inge Fagervik

    Congratulations from Norway!!! Thought we saw something passing Norway some days ago, but we could not imagine that it was Thor! Now we now!

    All the best from Hans Inge and the gang!

  • Louise Manetta

    Dear Uncle Thor,

    What a wonderful example you have set for me! Your health is a reflection of your healthy lifestyle and positive attitude. Congratulations on a wonderful achievement that is truly an accomplishment of a “long term goal”!

    Love ya, Louise Martha Gorman Manetta