The Karhu Airstream: For Love of a Trailer, by Jon Gugala

karhu airstream outside.jpg
The Karhu Airstream, photo courtesy of Karhu

The Karhu Airsteam tour honors the tour of Finnish athletes across the US in the spring of 1975 to compete in a series of track meets promoted by the late Steve Prefontaine. I remember Karhu as it was the brand that San Jose City college track athletes wore in 1977. Orange, with the Karhu logo, and fast. They were fun. 

The Airstream is the Mercedes of trailers. Jon Gugala, one of our fearless writers, will be joining the Karhu Tour for the week of October 22-29. Here is his first colum. Please follow him, it should be pretty humorous! And if you are in the area, visit the Karhu Airstream. It will be unforgettable. 

Love and Trailers

by Jon Gugala

I fell in love with a trailer in a parking lot.

It was outside of the Boston Marathon expo in April. There, surrounded by parked cars, was a vintage Airstream trailer. And a dancing bear. 


Inside view, Karhu Airstream, photo by Karhu


So I went over, and I got in the trailer ("An Airstream," the Karhu CEO said. "A trailer is something that gets hit by a tornado."). There was the legacy of Karhu: the great Finnish runners of the early '70s, on a road trip across America after an invitation to Eugene, Ore., by none other than American distance legend Steve Prefontaine.

Team Sweden77.jpg

Karhu Team Sweden 1977, photo courtesy of Karhu

And that was what I fell in love with, just like every young man and woman coming up in the sport--not the activity--of running: Pre, mustached, living in a trailer, training for the 1976 Olympic Games, and dreaming. We fell in love with a time that we've never known, and we're probably all fools idealizing halcyon days that may have never been.

But that doesn't kill the dream.

It's that dream that we, runners competitive either in our local 5K or Rio 2016, believe in. And love.


Outside view, Karhu Airstream, photo by Karhu

And it's not about buying GPS watches and gobs of designer energy gels. It's about the pack of runners on a Sunday at dawn, the guys or girls to your left and right. It's about the "easy five" you put in after work as the sun's going down. It's about the run itself, the purity you can't buy, and others can't sell.

In that trailer, or Airstream or whatever, Karhu has sent two guys, one Finnish and one American, on an epic 4,000-mile road trip. They left mid-September from Chicago with that idea, mimicking the same roadtrip of the elder Finns. And that trip's idea, planted in me in Boston, has germinated, and it's taken root. 

And now, here it comes.

I'll be joining the Karhu crew on their three-month road trip for a week from October 22 to October 29, where I'll witness the country in all of its Kerouacian zooming. From Austin to Oklahoma, I'll see running shops and races; I'll see a lot of open road and hopefully the part of running that I imagined when I fell in love with Prefontaine and the first Running Boom.

And yes, somewhere in there, I'll probably end up running in a bear suit.

You should follow along. I'll be posting a near-daily blog here (, with photos and videos and words and dancing bears, the whole beautiful mess pressed and folded.

So come along. Get your "sisu" up (nope, that does not mean what you think). Find a little of what was lost, but still lives on in a vintage Airstream and three guys with beat running shoes in the back.

karhu airstream outside.jpg

Karhu Airstream, photo by Karhu 

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