Athlete of the week: John Kallemeyn, Big Lake: Man for all seasons

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

John Kallemeyn is the rare 21st century homo sapien who doesn’t own a television. The 27-year-old marathoner, Nordic skier and triathlete would rather spend his free time training for his next athletic event, or fishing, woodworking or gardening, anything but sitting still. “My wife and I watch ‘Game of Thrones’ on our computer sometimes,” he admits, “but that’s about it.”

The former Elk all-state distance runner and skier has completed five marathons and done well in all of them. He placed 103rd this year (among 5,620) at Grandma’s in Duluth with 2:47.49, and was 42nd there in 2009 with 2:45.44. His best time was 2:42:28 at the Twin Cities Marathon in 2010 for 94th place among 8,211. He’s also run marathons in Walker (MN) and Ashland (WI).

John Kallemeyn, former Elk three-sport star ten years later, has done well in marathons and ski races and is aiming for the full ironman. (Photo by Bruce Strand)
John Kallemeyn, former Elk three-sport star ten years later, has done well in marathons and ski races and is aiming for the full ironman. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

Kallemeyn, who lives in Big Lake and works for Cretex Cement Products in Elk River as a materials engineer, exchanges his running shoes for ski boots in the winter. He’s done the huge Birkebeiner in Hayward, WI, about 10 times, placing as high as 54th in a field of close to 6,000. He was 104th last winter. He’s also done the Vasaloppet in Mora three times.

Bicycles are another form of fitness for Kallemeyn as he’s done a few bike races along with a couple of triathlons each year. He enjoys the swim-bike-run trifecta but is more middle-of-the-pack in this sport because “I’m a lousy swimmer.”

That doesn’t stop the 6-foot-3, 180-pound athlete from embracing the sport’s most daunting challenge. After winning the low-key Bigtooth-Sweet Tooth 5K run in Elk River last Saturday, he’s aiming for his first Full Ironman in September at Madison, WI. That’s a two-mile swim, 108-mile bike trek, and 26.2-mile run.  “It’s on my bucket list,” explained Kallemeyn, who got some practice recently doing a half Ironman in Duluth.

An even bigger event coming up will be fatherhood, as the Kallemeyn’s are expecting their first child. Julie (Warneke), incidentally, was a strong shot-putter and skier at ERHS.

While obtaining a chemical engineering degree at UM-Duluth, he ran four years for the Bulldogs, his highlights being a sixth-place finish in cross country and fourth in the 1500 in North Central Conference meets. In high school with the Elks, he earned three all-state honors, with a ninth-place finish in skiing, 24th-place in cross country and sixth in the 3200.

Kallemeyn, whose younger sisters Mary and Jane followed him as skiers and distance runners, got back into Elk sports the last two winters as assistant Nordic Ski coach under Kirsten Anderson.

While he’s not watching television or movies, Kallemeyn keeps busy with all his outdoor stuff and helping out with youth sports. Meanwhile the Kallemeyn garden churns out greens, beets, corn, tomatoes, cabbage, peas, squash, zucchini and other produce. “I hate weeding,” he admits, “but I love to eat what we grow.”



John Kallemeyn
John Kallemeyn

Personal file — Age: 27 … Family: wife Julie; first child on way … Sports: distance running, Nordic skiing, triathlons … College: UM-Duluth (chemical engineering, cross country) …. Occupation: materials engineer for Cretex
Favorite stuff — Meal: eggs, tomatoes and rice stir fry … Drink: milk … Book: “Once a Runner” … Athletes: Kara Goucher, Emma Bates … Hobbies: gardening, fishing, woodworking, working with youth … Wants to visit: Norway