Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dean Karnazes’ Utramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner

Dean doesn’t race to achieve paces or places. He runs to see how far he can go. That figure is precisely 226.2 miles in one run – a solo Ragnar + a marathon.  He’s an ultra marathoner. 

Favorite song? I am guessing A Flock of Seagulls’ I Ran (So Far Away) . . . and I ran. I ran so far away. I just ran. I ran all night and day . . .

It’s obvious from the first pages of Dean’s book that the man loves running. Probably more than any other person on the planet. Or at least out of all of us running-writers, he has best-expressed his love for running in print.

A familiar story . . . until it gets crazy:  Dean ran cross country in high school but didn’t run again for nearly 15 years. That all changed on his 30th birthday. In a boozy haze at a bar in the Marina (San Francisco), the urge to run overcame him.  In the wee hours of the morning, he stripped down to his undershirt and boxers, put on a pair of yard-work shoes, and ran 30 miles from the city to Half Moon Bay.  Then he limped around for a few months.

Once recovered, he became a runner—not just any runner. An ultra runner, eventually finishing many of the world’s most challenging foot races. The Western States 100 (total climb 18,090 feet). The BadwaterUltramarathon (135 miles through Death Valley in July with a climb from below sea level to 8,360 feet). A marathon in Antarctica (the coldest, driest, and highest average elevation of all the continents) finishing at the South Pole (there is really a pole there, and “pole taggers” are tourists who fly there to have their photos taken with the pole).

Meanwhile, Dean is just a regular John Doe. Married, two kids, holding down a job in corporate America.  I can’t believe his wife is cool with this.

More than any other of the endurance athlete autobiographies that I have read, Dean tells you what it’s really like to run these ultra races.  The pain and suffering (e.g., he thought there was a clam shell in his shoe during the Western States 100, but it was his big toenail). The brushes with death (e.g., hypothermia, hyperthermia, exhaustion, dehydration, oncoming traffic). But also the joy and glory (e.g., running to raise money for children who need organ transplants).

. . . and I ran. I ran so far away. I just ran. I ran all night and day . . .

two little runners (Kristen)

By Ed Schipul from Houston, TX, US (running with the seagulls)
via Wikimedia Commons

No comments:

Post a Comment