Dean Karnazes – The Ultimate Running Junkie?

If like me you have had an interest in people who run in crazy events or run distances that the general public would consider insane then you have probably come across this guy and maybe read some of his books.

If you haven’t then here is a brief article about an amazing endurance athlete who is one of the world’s ultimate running junkies!



Dean Karnazes was born in 1962 in the good old United States of America in sunny California.

Growing up he was a keen runner and athlete at school and was a successful long distance runner in his school’s track team.

He soon started to make his own way home from school by running.

As he got older he would not only run home from school regularly but devise more challenging and longer routes he could take!

Think of the effect this would have on our country’s obesity crisis if more kids started thinking up things like this?

At high school his extraordinary endurance capabilities were showcased when partaking in a charity running event.

Most of his peers managed to complete 15 laps of the track, no mean feat for a teenager, but Karnazes went on to complete 105 laps!

A change in school and the subsequent change in track coach resulted in Karanazes giving up running due to a difference of opinion on how he should run with his new track coach.

This led Karnazes to give up running for a 15 year period until an unavoidable desire to run hit him on the night of his 30th birthday.


Running Career

Dean Karnazes’ amazing running career got kickstarted on the night of his 30th birthday party when despite being late at night, having had a few celebratory drinks and having done no training for 15 years, Karnazes simply laced up a pair of old trainers and headed out the door.

He simply ran without having a clear idea of where he was running or how far he was going to go.

Some 30 miles later he finally stopped and from here you could say the rest is history as this impromptu run reignited Karnazes’s love for running and his desire to make running part of his life once more.

Since this late night run Karnazes has gone on to achieve some remarkable running feats.

His achievements include continuously running 350 miles and completing a marathon in the South Pole where temperatures were -40 degrees.

These accomplishments have led to him becoming an international fitness celebrity, author of several books about his running experience, as well as being named in the Time Top 100 list in 2007.

For me he is an inspiration who has helped redefine the rules of human endurance and challenged peoples preconceived attitudes and stereotypes towards running and exercise.


Karnazes, who is much more renowned in America than in the UK and Europe, now holds a place as a kind of exercise celebrity come fitness guru as his fitness exploits and motivational achievements are marvelled at by the press while providing inspiration to the masses.

He has completed hundreds of long distance races and incredible feats of endurance.

These include:

  • 50 marathons in 50 days across 50 states in 2006 – that’s one way to do a bit of sightseeing!
  • 212 miles on a treadmill in 48 hours – think about that next time you are in the gym!
  • Running a marathon in the South Pole where temperatures were around -40! Karnazes took part in what was the first organised marathon event in the South Pole in 2002 and was the only person to complete the run in regular running trainers.  And we moan about how cold it gets in the UK winter!?!


Running Stories

As you can imagine, his books have some amazing tales to tell from his various extreme adventures and the different situations he finds himself in.

Some of the experiences he encounters while running are quite unbelievable and more than worthy of the massive success of his various books.

A particular experience – or ‘skill’ I suppose you could call it – that Karnazes recounts is his ability to sleep while running.

As you can imagine Karnazas goes through sleepless nights as he runs continuously through periods often in excess of 48 hours!

He goes onto say he experiences ‘sleep running’ where his body is able to enter a sleep mode while in motion enabling him to get some form of rest to sustain him through these challenges.

My favourite story concerns Karnazes’ attempts at refueling while out on a grueling long run.

The story goes that while out on one of his epic runs in the middle of the night he decided he needed to eat and thought he would order a pizza.

But rather than collect it he managed to get the delivery guy to meet him at a junction of a certain road at a certain time.

The guy taking the order took some convincing but the plan worked and the delivery guy was amazed to find Karnazes running along looking worse for wear at such a crazy hour.

Karnazes then turned the pizza into what he terms an ‘Italian Burrito’ by rolling it into a log so he could wolf it down while continuing on his run.

Pretty amazing stuff – I sometimes struggle to get the pizza delivery guy to find my flat and after a large Dominoes I certainly don’t feel in any fit state for a long run!

Over the year though Karnazas body has been trained and conditioned to not only cope with the demands his running adventures put on his body but to excel onto unheralded levels.


Karnazes – The Man & Legend

His running exploits have established Dean Karnazes as almost a household name and he has provided an inspiration to millions all over the world.

Karnazes phenomenal feats have bestowed upon him a degree of fame and notoriety with which he has used to further the causes of many noteworthy initiatives and charities including his own charity Karno Kids.

As mentioned in this article, Karnazs has published several books including ‘Run!’, ‘Ultramarathon Man’ and ‘50 Marathons In 50 Days’, which detail his adventures and experiences.

You can also follow his blog via the Runner’s world website here.

I hope this article provides an introduction to an incredible man and I will leave you with this piece of advice Karnazes offers marathon runners:

“When you’re at Mile 18 or 19 and cooked, don’t get trapped into looking for the next mile marker. Don’t look for it. It’s a Zen thing. Just blank out everything around you except the foot strike you’re working on and just go.”

Karnazes is proof that the human body is strong enough to adapt to whatever training demands and challenges you throw at it and I hope reading about his accomplishments drive you on to achieve your own goals.

For further reading and more in depth interviews and information check out these links:

Dean Karnazes website bio

‘Dean Karnazes – The man that can run forever’, Guardian article

2012 Interview with Competitor magazine

‘Dean Karnazes trains for an ultramarathon’, Mens fitness article