Meeting Dean Karnazes: The Man, The Legend.

I like to consider myself a long distance runner. In the last 2 years, I have completed 3 full marathons and 4 half-marathons. I’m also scheduled to race half-marathons number 5-7 before the end of the year. I would not consider myself an elite runner or even an above-average runner. I’ll never finish first in an event or even in the top 100, but that is not something that I am striving to accomplish. I just enjoy running and embrace the challenges in pushing yourself physically to accomplish a goal. Plain and simply put, I love to run. However, today I'd like to tell you about an individual that is at another level of running and physical endurance.

Last year at the RunSF marathon expo, I noticed that a line had formed at a booth. Curiosity sunk in and I wanted to see what people were so anxious to stand in line for. When I reached the booth, a man was seated signing a book titled “Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner.” I wasn’t going to wait in line, but I made a note to myself to find out what this guy’s story was all about in the near future. Over a year later, I myself would be standing in line to meet this man, this Ultramarathon Man.

His name is Dean Karnazes. In the running world, he is an icon, a hero, a true inspiration and a living-legend. As a matter of fact, he is all those things outside of the running world. Time magazine has named him one of the “Top 100 Most Influential People in the World,” he is an advocate for healthy, active living and leads by example. His first book Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner, is a National Best Seller and has been described by Men’s Fitness as possibly the fittest man in the world. When I found out that Dean would be speaking at the REI store in downtown SF earlier this month and promoting his recent book (50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days…), I seized the opportunity to meet this man and hear him speak. Not wanting to meet Dean without having read his first book, I picked it up as soon as possible and read it in 3 days finishing it the morning of his appearance. (Sort of a mini-page turning marathon — pun totally intended.)

His first book chronicles his various life and running experiences including an ultramathon in Death Valley (135 miles in 120-degree temp. in a little over 27 hours), a Western States 100 (a 100-mile run in under 24 hours over mind-boggling terrain), a marathon in the South Pole (in negative 40 degrees) and a 262-mile run in over 76 hours from Napa to Santa Cruz. Unbelievable right? I could go into great detail about how completing any one of these events is an amazing feat, but it would not do the book (or the man) justice. This is the most inspirational, motivating, jaw-dropping book I have ever read.

Before I go into the experience of meeting Dean, I’d like to briefly cover his latest book that I recently finished reading: 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days — and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance! For most people completing a marathon in their life-time is a huge accomplishment. But to run a marathon every day, for 50 straight days, in 50 different states is something that I (and you) should read about. To put it in another way, most elite runners will reach around 100 miles per week a few times throughout the year… Dean was running over 183 miles per week for a little over 7 weeks in a row. His recent book was greatly different from his first, but equally amazing. Covering each of the 50 marathons, Dean does a wonderful job of detailing his experiences and allows the reader to take a look into his life over 50 days as an ultra-endurance athlete.

Now onto meeting the man know as Karno — you could compare me to a child meeting Mickey Mouse, but as I stated earlier, I am a runner and for me, this was huge. Sitting there listening to Dean share some of his experiences and answering questions from the audience was great. He’s very personable and easy going. One thing that I couldn’t help but notice was that when he tells a story, he will often laugh to himself (along with the audience) about a funny experience. A huge smile will come across his face and it is almost as if he is re-living the moment as he is telling the story, but almost in a way that he has some sort of deeper insight than the rest of us. He has experienced things that most of us can only imagine and I was grateful to not only have read about these moments but to hear him speak about them in person. After speaking, Dean was gracious enough to sign his book and take a few minutes to talk with the crowd individually. Over 2 years later, there I was, anxiously waiting in line like the group at the RunSF Expo.

I brought a copy of his first book with me and purchased his second at the event, and he was kind enough to sign both and take a picture with one of his fans. After reading both of his books and meeting Dean in the last month, I find myself eager to share some of his amazing experiences… almost as if I am spreading the legend of the man known as Dean Karnazes, the ultramarathon man. Dean has often said that he doesn’t have any special secrets that allow him to accomplish what he has in life, just hard work and no excuses. And it’s true. There are no secrets to running, just little things that help along the way that you learn through getting outdoors and taking one step at a time. Perhaps that is the insight that Dean possesses… knowing that the only way to accomplish something is to try for it.

Feel free to leave a comment below and share any running experiences or your thoughts on either of Dean’s books. Perhaps your words will inspire someone the way that Dean has to millions of people (… although not that many people read this blog). One step at a time, right?

Below are links to purchase Dean’s books along with a link to web site and his non-profit organization.
Dean’s Non-profit charity work:
As a foundation, KARNO KIDS (No Child Left Inside!) to provide the direct financial support to organizations and programs that are focused on improving the health and wellness of the youth and restoring and preserving the environment for urban-open spaces.

UPDATED: 9/24/08 (11:38am) - I emailed Dean that I was writing a post about him and I received a reply from him just now:

Hello Brian, Thank you for writing. I'm glad that you enjoyed my books and appreciate the warm sentments you expressed in your message below and in your blog.

Hopefully our paths will meet "in the hood" soon!

Keep running strong.

Dean Karnazes


— How cool is that?!?! The running community is the best.


Sarah said...

Hey Brian,

I saw him on Regis and Kelly last week....he was attempting to beat the world record for the number of miles in 48 hours! Crazy!!! I don't think he made it. The 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states is AMAZING!


Anonymous said...

Hi Brian.

I LOVE these blog things. Please feel free to email me and share them with me any time.
I just started running... and i really am enjoying it. I run 3-5 miles a few times a week. I would really like to do a half marathon, but I'm kinda scared. Words of encouragement?
Tell Sherlin I said Hello, all the way from San Diego.

Olivia =)

Anonymous said...

Wow! Dean must love the sport of running. Most of all enjoy it. I'm sure runners can learn alot from Dean.

Keep your blog going I enjoy very much reading it and look forward to more.

Ronnie said...

awesome blog man. Wish I could run a 50/50. Perhaps just stick to the stairstepper.

Jo said...

I don't run at all but I totally appreciate your enthusiasm for the sport and for Dean. It is nice when someone you admire turns out to be amazingly nice and accessible.