The Story Of Dean “The Ultramarathonman” Karnazes

24 02 2009


Dean Karnazes (b. Constantine Karnazes August 23, 1962) (pronounced car-NAH-sis), is a Greek-American ultramarathon runner, and author of Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner which details ultra endurance running for the general public.[1][2

Karnazes grew up in Los Angeles, where he began running home from kindergarten; he took up running so that he wouldn’t have to burden his mother with rides home from school every day.

At first, Karnazes ran direct routes from school to his home. Later, he began to run diversionary routes that would extend his run and take him into uncharted territory.[2] By third grade he was participating in and organizing short running events with other kids. As Karnazes grew older, he began testing his limits: by age eleven he had hiked rim-to-rim across the Grand Canyon and had climbed Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States; for his 12th birthday, he cycled the 40 miles to his grandparents’ home for fun, without first telling his parents.

In junior high, Karnazes met Jack McTavish, a track coach who became Karnazes’ mentor and introduced him to the appeal of long-distance running. McTavish’s basic running instructions were simple: “Go out hard and finish harder.” Using this motto as a basis, that season Karnazes won the one-mile California State Long-Distance Championship held on the Mount SAC track. At the end of the race, coach McTavish commented: “Good work son, how’d it feel?” To this Karnazes replied: “Well, going out hard was the right thing to do. It felt pretty good.” The coach replied: “If it felt good, you didn’t push hard enough. It’s supposed to hurt like hell.” A week after the race, Karnazes’ father’s job was transferred to San Clemente. These were the last comments the coach ever said to Karnazes, who has stated that he lives by these words to this day.[2]

In 1976, as a high school freshman, Karnazes joined the cross country team under Benner Cummings. Cummings’ running theory was that running is about finding your inner peace; his motto was “run with your heart.” That season, Karnazes was awarded “Most Inspirational” team member. Karnazes also ran his first full marathon that year, a fundraiser for underprivileged children, finishing in just under six hours and raising a dollar a lap from his sponsors. While most students ran only 10-15 laps around the track, he ran 105.

Karnazes was not compatible with his high school track coach and stopped running for fifteen years.[2] He resumed running on his 30th birthday with an impromptu all-night, soul-searching, 30-mile trek in his underwear and old lawn-mowing shoes.

In 2004, Karnazes was named one of GQ‘s “Best Bodies of the Year”.

In 1995, Karnazes founded Energy Well Natural Foods in San Francisco and he remains president of the company, now called Good Health Natural Foods.[3] He holds graduate degrees in Science and Business. Karnazes resides in San Francisco, California, with his wife, Julie, and two children, Alexandria and Nicholas.[4] Karnazes is also a regular columnist for Men’s Health.[2]

Racing and endurance

Significant race wins

Running accomplishments

  • 350 miles in 80 hours and 44 minutes without stopping (2005)[7]
  • North Face Endurance 50: fifty marathons in fifty U.S. states in fifty consecutive days
  • inaugural South Pole Marathon in running shoes
  • 148 miles in 24 hours on a treadmill (2004)[8]
  • single-handedly completed the 199 mile Providian Saturn Relay six times
  • 100-Mile/1 Day Buckleholder at the Western States Endurance Run[9] (i.e., better than ten twenty-four hour finishes. Note: Karnazes current count is 11 finishes in less than twenty-four hours each)

Other endurance accomplishments

North Face Endurance 50

See also: Marathon#Multiple marathons

The North Face Endurance 50, also known as the 50/50/50, was fifty marathons in fifty states in fifty consecutive days, beginning with the Lewis and Clark Marathon in St. Louis on September 17, 2006, and finishing with the New York City Marathon on November 5th. Eight of the fifty races were official marathons. Since marathon races are typically held only on Saturdays and Sundays, on the other days Karnazes ran the courses of established marathons, but ran them unofficially. (For example, as part of the Endurance 50, Karnazes ran the course of the Boston Marathon, but not the race itself, which is held in mid-April.)

The 50/50/50 generated controversy in the running community, since many professional marathon runners run far more than a marathon every day, and continue this training regimen for over six months at a time. In addition to running four times the distance that Karnazes did during the 50/50/50, the professional runners also maintain a much quicker pace, often training between 5 and 6 minutes a mile. Karnazes ran most of his marathons at an 8 or 9 minute pace.

After finishing the Endurance 50, Karnazes decided to run home to San Francisco from New York City. He was expected to finish the trip in January 2007. However Karnazes chose to end this trek on December 15, 2006, in St. Charles, Missouri, to spend more time with his family.[10]

South Pole Marathon controversy

In January 2002, Adventure Network International (ANI) organized the first marathon at the South Pole. Five people, who had each paid $25,000 to participate, reached the start point. The race originally started on January 20, but fog and poor snow conditions forced the organizers to stop the run after a few miles. On January 22, they tried again. Don Kern and Ute Grüner decided to run a half marathon to keep the runners from being too spread out and difficult to support. Brent Weigner, Richard Donovan, and Karnazes decided to run a full marathon. Karnazes says that the group of three agreed to stick together and not compete. The others say that their agreement was to stick together for most of the run and race the last few miles. During the run, Weigner and Donovan used snowshoes that Karnazes had provided, while Karnazes wore only running shoes. (They only had two pairs of snowshoes.)

Donovan crossed the finish line first in 8:52:03, followed by Karnazes in 9:18:55, and Weigner in 9:20:05.[11]

ANI initially declared that Donovan was the winner, but Doug Stoup, the race director, decided to create a runners division and a snowshoe division. Ultimately, ANI declared that all five were winners and awarded them $3,000 each. Some competitors stated that ANI was offering a $25,000 prize to the winner, but once the controversy began, ANI stated that it was only offering “up to” $25,000. Karnazes was dissatisfied with the outcome and had a falling out with Donovan. Karnazes contacted the Department of State to report that Donovan was “a non-U.S. resident acting aggressively and potentially with malicious intent toward a U.S. citizen.” [12][13][14]

Donovan filed suit against ANI, demanding that he be paid the full $25,000. In 2003, he won default judgment against ANI in the Supreme Court of British Columbia for the outstanding prize money, plus interest and costs.[15]

Dean Karnazes at the 2008 Napa Valley Marathon expo

“Put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness.” Eph 4:24




One response

3 03 2009
Shoe Carnival

thanks, your article is very informative. : )

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: