Icelandic trail runner earns spot on Global Champions team

Friðleifur Friðleifsson is one of the best long-distance and ultra-trail runners in Iceland. In October, he’ll run as a Medtronic Global Champion and share his story of overcoming an unexpected medical challenge.

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND – Well into his forties, Friðleifur Friðleifsson possessed a talent he never knew he had.

“I was never a runner,” he recalls. “But I wanted to lose a few pounds, so I gave it a try.”

He’s glad he did.

“It quickly became my favorite activity,” he says.

And he was good. He logged thousands of miles on rugged trails outside of his hometown in Reykjavik, Iceland. In just a few years, Friðleifur owned multiple trail running, ultra-trail running, and marathon records in Iceland. 

Friðleifur Friðleifsson

An Unexpected Challenge

"I was not a candidate for this," recalls Friðleifur Friðleifsson, following cardiac arrest.

“It takes stamina and stubbornness,” says Friðleifur.

He needed that — and more — during a challenge no one saw coming.

In 2015, Friðleifur’s heart suddenly stopped. It was the middle of the night — everyone was asleep — when he went into cardiac arrest. Thankfully, his wife heard Friðleifur wheezing and jumped into action. 

“I started doing chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth,” says Olafia. “I kept thinking — this can’t be happening.”

He was rushed to the hospital where a second cardiac arrest occurred.

“Impossible,” says Friðleifur. “I was not a candidate for this. Far from it.”

After dozens of tests and days in the hospital, surgeons ultimately implanted a defibrillator, a device designed to pace his heart, and shock it in case it stops again.

“Today, I’m back to what I enjoy doing.”

Being with other runners who understand what I’ve been through will be an inspiration.

Friðleifur Friðleifsson , 2017 Global Champions Team Member


In October, Friðleifur will visit the U.S. as a Medtronic Global Champion. Invited to run in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, Medtronic Global Champions are runners from around the world who have overcome medical challenges and rely on medical technology.

“These athletes serve as an inspiration to all of us,” says Rob Clark, Vice President of Global Communications at Medtronic. “They faced a medical challenge, and now medical technology is allowing them to return to their life.”

Friðleifur Friðleifsson

Back to the Trails

"Today, I'm back doing what I enjoy doing," says Friðleifur. 

The 2017 Global Champions team, which consists of 20 individuals from 13 countries, will spend the weekend touring Medtronic facilities and connecting with those who were integral in developing many of the devices they live with. The weekend culminates with them running a marathon or 10-mile race in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota.

 “This could be one of my running highlights,” says Friðleifur. “Being with other runners who understand what I’ve been through will be an inspiration.”

The Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and Medtronic Twin Cities 10-Mile Race attracts thousands of runners and more than 20,000 spectators each year. This year’s race is on October 1.