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Life on the run with: Dean Karnazes

Dean Karnazes may be the closest thing we have to a real man of steel. The ultramarathoner and endurance athlete has helped to redefine what it means to be a runner and seems to know no bounds in his restless pursuit of breaking point.

Among a raft of feats, the ‘Marathon Man’ from San Francisco ran 50 marathons in 50 consecutive days, in all 50 US states, he won the 2004 Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile nonstop footrace across Death Valley and completed a 350-mile run across California in 80 hours and 44 minutes.

Bet you’re breaking a sweat just reading this!

Here Dean shares his mindset and seminal stories from his life on the run.

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How did you get into running?

DK: I blame it all on bad Tequila! I loved to run when I was younger, but gave it up when I hit my teens. Then, on the night of my 30th birthday, I found myself in a nightclub with some friends—doing what you do on your 30th birthday (i.e. drinking heavily)—when I felt this primordial urge to leave. “What?” they questioned, “It’s only midnight; let’s have another round of tequila.” Instead, I walked out of the nightclub and ran 30-miles to celebrate my 30th birthday. I ran straight through the night and it was the first time I’d run in over a decade. I was drunk and it almost killed me, but I kept going.

That night forever changed the course of my life.

 

What’s your favourite running story?

DK: The time I was running across America and got invited to visit the White House. After sixty-days of running 40-50 miles a day, I was welcomed by the First Lady for a reception on the South Lawn of the nation’s most prominent building.

I felt like Forrest Gump when I walked in but she gave me a big hug and said, “It’s such an honor to meet you!” It was a surreal moment.

 

What’s your motivation?

DK: I love to run. I’ve never let that joy escape me. You don’t need a lot of motivation to do what you love.

What has been your biggest achievement?

DK: While I’ve had the great privilege of running on all 7-continents, twice now, in some of the most extreme and exotic locations on earth—from running a marathon to the South Pole to running across the Sahara—my most heartwarming accomplishment is running a 10K race with my daughter, Alexandria, on her 10th birthday. Nothing will ever top that.

 

What has been your biggest barrier to success?

DK: Me. I’ve been my own biggest barrier. That’s always the case. We let our perceived limitations restrict our potential. If we can just move out of the way of ourselves we’re capable of some truly extraordinary things.

 

How important is it to push beyond comfort zones?

DK: Comfort is overrated. We’re so comfortable we’re miserable. To me, pain and suffering are the essence of a life well lived. Never do I feel more alive then when struggling to overcome great pain and to persevere. Ultra running is the perfect medium to experience these emotions and test the limits of what is possible.

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What lessons have you learned along the way?

DK: Success is achieved through baby steps. It’s the little things you do each and every day, the extra five percent of effort you give to every task, that leads to greatness. Much of it is the quiet grunt work done behind the scenes, paying your dues and doing what is necessary to perfect your craft. Nothing of greatness is ever achieved through shortcuts or by taking the path of least resistance. It all comes down to hard work.

 

How has running changed you as a person?

DK: Running has made me more humble. Running has taught me that the greatest joys in life are achieved through simplicity. The true measure of a man is what he can do without.

As a runner, I don’t need much. Just a pair of shoes and an open road.

 

What’s next? What are you training for at the moment?

DK: I once ran 50 marathons, in all of the 50 US states, in 50 consecutive days. People said it would be impossible, but I somehow managed to pull it off. In fact, I enjoyed the experience so much I set my next B-HAG (Big, Hairy Audacious Goal) as running a marathon in every country of the world in a 1-year timeframe.

There are currently 203 countries on the planet and I am working with the UN and the US State Department to get all of the necessary permits, passports and visas required to visit each and every one to run a marathon.

That is my dream.

Dean Karnazes is a prolific ultramarathon runner, NY Times bestselling author and frequent motivational speaker. His books have been translated into over twenty languages. Follow Dean’s journey on Facebook and Instagram

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Watch out for Life On The Run With: Nicky Chrascina in July…