“The Road to Sparta”
Tanned, chiseled, beaming smile, shortcut blond hair and a reverse turned peak hat – Dean Karnazes personified cool. This guy is ripped and yes, he doesn’t look like a runner. Legs bulge with toned muscles and they are big; so far removed from the fleet of foot Kenyan’s. Dean’s arms are bigger than most marathon runners legs!
He’s edgy, almost nervous, but I soon find out that this guy can’t keep still. Sitting is an alien thing that is forced on him at social occasions and meal time. “I work standing up – I have a stand-up desk and that works for me. When I am ‘in’ training for an event, my day starts early – around 4 am! I will run a marathon before breakfast, I will work all day and then in the evening I will run again, say 12-miles with some faster running or hill work.”
It’s a grueling routine and one that is added to by numerous ‘HIT’ (high-intensity training) sessions throughout the day. Dean will include 4-to-6 10 to 15-minute sessions were he breaks away from his desk and goes through a routine of pull-ups, burpees, press ups and so on.
Dean is in Bulgaria at FIZKULTURA – a one-day running event with guest speakers. Dean is heading up the day and I am joining him along with adventurer Sean Conway, marathon runner Irina Daniela, and host of local running talent. Dean’s first book, ‘Confessions of an all Night Runner’ has just been translated into Bulgarian and in addition, ‘The Road To Sparta,’ Dean’s new book is being launched worldwide.
For many, ‘Confessions…’ was the book that started their own ultra running odyssey – I included. Dean made a very niche and undercover world not only accessible but manageable. Today, ultra-running would not have the profile it does had Dean not made this world known.
Put a guy on a pedestal and there are those who are keen to knock him off. It’s the nature of things – a lack of understanding, jealousy, whatever it may be it has no bearing on the man, who at heart is a person who beams enthusiasm for a sport he loves. His charity work is boundless and as Dean himself says, “You have to ignore the criticism for all the thousands of emails and messages I receive that are positive!”
This guys body, face, health, and charisma shows no aging of his 54 total. At 5ft 8in he is not the towering ‘Greek God’ that many think he will be. Don’t get me wrong though – the dude is impressive. On stage he moves left-to-right, no doubt trying to add his talk to one of his daily ‘HIT’ sessions. It’s a new audience and coinciding with his first book, he takes them back to the old days.
“It was my 30th birthday and I was doing what anyone does on the 30th birthday – I was out drinking with friends. I had the car, the house, and the high-powered job but I needed more. I left the party, went home to my garage, took out a pair of run shoes and ran a mile for every year. Off the bat, 30-miles and a new story began.”
His talk is interspersed with video clips of documentary clips and a fascinating medical research program that showed how Dean does not produce lactic acid like a ‘typical’ human.
“I ran 350-miles in 80-hours, 44-minutes with no sleep. I found myself drifting to sleep while running and I would wake up in the middle of the road not quite sure how I got there. I single-handedly completed ‘The Relay,’ a 199-mile run
from Calistoga to Santa Cruz (normally done by teams) eleven times. I ran a marathon at the South Pole and if course I ran the iconic Western States eleven times.”
The audience burst into applause. Rightly so! But they all know the stories are not finished.
Dean has a mischievous glint in his eye while telling the story of running for 24-
hours in a glass box while being suspended above Times Square – “I needed the loo, not a no1 but a no2.” The auditorium is filled with laughter. “I had a potty and shower curtain inside the box, so, I go make myself comfortable, pull the curtain around me and start the task at hand… just as a helicopter sweeps in to film me for the news!” A whole new meaning to, oh shit!
He’s run across America, ran 50-marathons in 50-states in 50-days. He’s run and won Badwater 135, Vermont 100 and the 4 Desert Races amongst others and yet when asked, what is the most memorable achievement?
“Running a race with my son!”
Dean did relax over dinner and yes, he did manage to sit down and say sit down. He talked about how fortunate he is, how blessed and how thankful he is for what running has given him.
“You know Dean Karnazes, we have a race tomorrow in the park,” Elenko Elenkov, director of events at Fizkulktura says. “It’s 12 or 6-hours to see how little or how far people can run. The real motive is to provide a 12-hour course so that those who want to qualify for Spartathlon”
Dean looks up from his spread of raw food and grilled Salmon, his eyes glow.
“Count me in for the 6-hour.”
True to his word, the following day Dean lined up on the start and ran 600m loops for 6-hours.
He and I would have it no other way, Dean Karnazes is ‘The Marathon Man!’
“Ultra Marathon Man – Confessions of an all-night runner” available here – https://www.ultramarathonman.com/web/books/ultra.shtml
Dean’s new book “The Road to Sparta’ available here – https://www.ultramarathonman.com/web/books/roadtosparta.shtml