Dean Karnazes, the “Ultra-marathon Man”, is a running legend and the perfect choice for my first Running Legend interview. Dean has completed 50 marathons in 50 days, won the 135-mile Badwater Ultra-marathon, ran 350 miles in just over 80 hours and ran 3,000 miles across America in 75 days. Most recently Dean completed a 153 mile footrace and talks about this in his new book “The Road to Sparta”. Dean is coming to the UK in April 2017 launching his new book.
On a personal level I was very lucky and excited to interview Dean, and can’t wait to see him when he comes to the Uk. I have read all of his books, and it was his journey that has inspired me to want to join the world of long distance running.
Dean, we are all aware of your running achievements, but what many won’t know is how much of a family man you are. How do you balance time with family and the incredible miles you put in?
As for achieving balance, forget about it. I think the idea of balance is misguided. When it comes to my family, our underlying love and respect for each other is the glue that holds us together. My family comes first, and that is authentic. They sense my deep love for them because it is real. They mean most, and I think my insane travel schedule actually brings out the best in us when we’re together. The quality of our time is more important than the quantity.
Away from the spotlight, where are your favourite routes, what is a typical run for you?
I’ve raced and competed on all seven continents of earth, twice now. So I’ve seen a lot of spectacular routes. Certainly running in the San Francisco Bay Area is a favourite. They say it’s always best in your own backyard.
A typical run is twice a day. One longer run in the morning, focusing on climbing more than speed, and one shorter speed workout in the evening.
You have won many extreme endurance races, covering distances many could only dream of. How do you keep going, and what do you do when it gets tough to keep going?
The mental challenge of running great distances is every bit as vexing as the physical element. Mastering one’s mind and being able to overcome adversity and pain requires discipline and a certain stubborn doggedness. For me, I turn inward when the going gets tough and try to be present in the now, tuning out everything except the current moment in time. I just try to be my best at instant and not thing of anything else. It’s almost a Zen-like state.
Of all the landmark races and endurance achievements which are you most proud of?
That’s an easy one. Although I’ve been to some of the most remote and exotic locations on earth—from running a marathon to the South Pole to crossing the Gobi Desert on foot—my proudest moment was running a 10 kilometre race with my daughter, Alexandria, on her 10th birthday. Nothing will ever surpass that moment.
That is fantastic, nothing compares to sharing these moments with family. I am so grateful I have my family with me to watch me finish my races. What has been the hardest challenge you have tackled to date and why?
Dealing with a teenage daughter. (laughter!) Seriously, probably running 50 marathons, in all 50 US states, in 50 straight days was the toughest. The running and the travel was quite gruelling.
Dean, you are a running legend, and an inspiration to many. Who is a legend in your eyes, and who inspires you?
My Dad is my biggest hero. He was such a great father and we’ve shared many great adventures over the years. He’s now in his 80’s and still going strong.
That’s incredible. Let’s now turn to your new book, you have launched your new book “the road to Sparta”, you talk about your routes and journey, how did you come to decide to complete this mission, and how did you find it?
The Road to Sparta was as much an inward journey as a 153-mile footrace. The book explores not only the history of long-distance running, but what it means to discover who you really are. The book has received some really terrific reviews, not just from ultra-marathoners, but from everyday runners as well.
Another massive achievement, what’s next for you Dean?
I’m planning to embark upon a global expedition to run a marathon in every country of the world in a 1-year time span. There are 203 countries and I’m working with the US State Department and UN to get the necessary passports and permits to be able to do this. As you can imagine, the planning, logistics and sponsorship negotiations are every bit as complex and difficult as the running itself. But I like the challenge of all these elements. I’m inviting the local country people to come run with me when I’m visiting. It might be naive of me, but I think humanity could use something like this right now. Let’s stop fighting with each other and start running together. This is my small contribution to the world I love.
Dean will be in London for the London Marathon, and you can see his schedule here.