We've learned that long-time and stalwart Godivan Ole Holsti passed away on July 2nd in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our friend Ole was active in the club from its founding in the 1970s, when he came to the area to serve as the George V. Allen Professor of Political Science at Duke University, until his retirement in 2010, when he moved to live near his daughter Maija (also a former Godiva runner).
Ole was an outgoing and enthusiastic ambassador for running and Godiva Track Club. Heather Yeowell recollects, "Ole was indeed a running icon. He was one of the first people I met when I first joined Godiva so many years ago. Always ready with encouragement and a smile and the latest snippet about a running event."
He was a serious runner, the veteran of several Boston Marathons. How competitive was he? Ken Reckhow shares this story: "I first met Ole in 1988 when we competed in the Duke Children’s Classic 5K. Subsequently, Ole and I did a weekly 12 mile run for years through Chapel Hill on Sunday mornings. He was a wonderful, caring person. He was also obsessed for years in maintaining his consecutive days running streak, even while having a fever and temperature! I recall one 5K in RTP when I was toward the end of my racing career and trying to recover from yet another injury. Bob Keohane and I were running together about a half mile from the finish line when we came upon a doubled over Ole. He insisted on finishing, so Bob and I each took an arm and jogged Ole toward the finish line. With the finish line less than a hundred yards away, Ole suddenly became alert and dashed past a startled Bob and me to finish ahead! He was a special person."
He was a photographer and journalist, snapping shots and gathering quotes post-race that would appear in the many reports he wrote for The Running Journal and other publications.
For years he organized the men's master's team. Walter Rogan recollects getting a call in the early 80s, when Ole asked him to join the team. “Ole” Walter said, “I’m 32. Men’s Masters starts at 35.”
“I know” Ole replied, “But I like to keep track of the race times of anyone who might be on the team.
Walter continues, "[Ole] brought a lot of energy to the club and we all missed seeing him out and about in Chapel Hill."
Ole was a major proponent of race walking within Godiva, and in later life he relied upon that to keep his years long "streak" of daily workouts intact.
One of his favorite projects was to host, along with his wife, Ann, the "Inter Club Challenge" track meet, which took place each August on a Saturday after the conclusion of Godiva Summer Track. Competition, teams, and running, these events brought it all together for Ole.
Professor Holsti was a distinguished scholar in the field of political science, specializing in international relations. He proudly held dual citizenship with Finland, which his father served Ambassador to the League of Nations.
Patrick Bruer said of Prof. Holsti, "Though he and I were both in the same academic discipline, albeit at extremes of rank and accomplishment, we never once discussed anything related to "work" when in our running gear. He knew what we were all looking for in Godiva, and I always enjoyed his company, whether at race or on the streets of east Chapel Hill. He was an exemplary member of our group."
For his contributions to the club and the running community, Godiva recognized him with the Dave Smith Award for Meritorious Running and Service in 2007.
Owen Astrachan puts it in perspective for those newer to the club who never met Ole. After stringing together a list of current and recent officers and some other notable personalities in the club, Owen sums it up by saying that Ole Holsti was "a combination of all of them, and more." Owen concludes with sentiments shared by many of us, "As a runner he was amazing. As a person? Also amazing. It was a pleasure knowing Ole, running with Ole, thinking of Ole as a mentor in so many ways."
Carolina Godiva Track Club will make a donation to the Road Runners Club of America's Road Scholars program in Ole Holsti's memory.