10 September 2009

Dean Karnazes - Ultramarathon man

l recently obtained from our public library Dean Karnazes' original book, Ultra marathon Man.

This was another fascinating read from the man who has really taken the sport of ultra running to another level both in terms of the challenges he has dreamt up to continue testing the limits of his endurance but also for the profile of ultra running which he has been able to lift through smart marketing of himself and the sport.

I'll admit to being feeling a bit short changed when I first met Dean at one of his public speaking engagements while on a down-under tour some three years ago. He came across as a bit of a smart alec who seemed happy cracking jokes rather that enlightening us on how and why he runs the distances he's famous for.

In reality though I new very little about the man at that time and now having read two of his books its clear that as much as he is a runner devoted to pushing his limits and discovering new extremes of physical endurance, he is also a devoted husband and father. He is an extraordinarily driven person who has unbelievable willpower and courage to fight through the toughest of conditions to achieve his goals. He has also raised countless dollars for needy children through his running.

This book takes us back to his childhood, growing up in Los Angeles and gives an insight into the athlete he would one day become when as a twelve year old he cycled for ten hours across LA to his grandparents' house. He was a gifted cross country athlete at high school, competing against and beating kids several years his senior.

After falling out with a college coach he turned away from running until, as if suffering from a mid life crisis, on his 30th birthday he laced up some old running shoes and promptly ran a marathon in the dead of night after returning home from some birthday drinks. He had not run mile for over ten years.

One thing led to another and within a few short years he found himself at the start line of the famed Western States 100 mile endurance run.

The book goes on to explain in detail, and in very entertaining fashion, the nitty gritty of the life of an endurance athlete. The ups and downs, highs and lows that he has faced while putting himself through the pain and suffering of the Badwater Ultra marathon, attempting to run a marathon to the South Pole (yes that's the South Pole in Antarctica!), and running a 199 mile endurance race solo, in which every other competitor was doing so as part of a relay team.

If Dean ever gives up running he could quite easily become a writer as the book was a very easy read which kept me interested the whole way through. There were several 'laugh out loud' moments as I pictured the scenes of suffering that Dean was so accurately describing. The chapter on 'soiling the Lexus' just had me in stitches.

If you haven't read this book yet, I can highly recommend it as an entertaining and inspirational read.


Chad Aaron Sayban September 11, 2009 at 3:32 AM  

I've read it twice and it really is a great book. I met Dean last year and he was a great guy in person. He is crazy as hell, though. :-)

Ewen September 11, 2009 at 9:50 PM  

Thanks Bruce, I'll look out for that one (even though 6' is the longest I want to run). A running friend of mine ran with Dean for a couple of hours when he was doing a long run in Aus a year or two back. Said he was a great guy and generous with tips about running.

Toni September 14, 2009 at 9:46 PM  

I totally agree Bruce. I've read Ultra Marathon Man and 50 Marathons in 50 Days and think Dean Karnazes is a totally amazing and incredibly crazy person - in a great way though! UMM is a better read but 50 Marathons in 50 Days does have some good running and nutrition tips in it. I would love to meet him - hopefully he does another tour down under!

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