Run to Infinity…and beyond

Dean Karnazes is an ultra-marathon champ who runs in deserts for fun. Nice guy and a lunatic.

Alcohol-fuelled benders have led people to do many ridiculous things but none as silly as running 50km. Just for the heck of it.

When asked how he got into ultra marathons Dean Karnazes cheerfully puts it down to a night of boozing.

He came out of a bar and simply decided to run 30 miles even though he hadn’t done any real running for the past ten years.

The power of tequila shots!

A beast was born and Karnazes has since gone on to become an ultra marathon legend.

His feats include running for 560km in 80 hours without sleep. Not even lying in a ditch for 10 minutes, nothing.

Karnazes also ran from Disneyland, California to New York City in 75 days, wisely opting against a Greyhound bus.

Let’s just step back and compute that. A total of 4,800 km, averaging 70 km per day, yes, running over a marathon per day.

Still faster than a Greyhound bus.

Karnazes was an avid runner from childhood and regularly entered competitions or created his own endurance courses for the fun of it.

In junior high school he met a running coach who inspired Karnazes to focus on long distance running. The coach gave him simple advice that he took on board for the rest of his life.

“If it felt good you didn’t push hard enough”.

Ouch. That rules out at least 7 billion people and probably more.

Karnazes joined an elite group by not only completing but winning the notorious Badwater Ultramarathon.

The name hardly entices newcomers and the race itself is shockingly difficult.

Not only does it take place in California’s Death Valley but also in mid July. Not November but mid summer.

Why not!

Temperatures regularly hit around 50c and runners are forced to use the paint on the middle of the road as the tar can melt their shoes.

Surprisingly nobody has died trying to complete this race.

To cool down he entered and won the first South Pole marathon. What heaven compared to the desert! Possibly.

Arguably his greatest feat was the Endurance 50 in 2006. His task was to run 50 marathons across 50 states in …yes – 50 days.


Karnazes began in St Louis and with the help of a logistics team and road crew he managed to run a marathon across in each state.

This included running the Boston Marathon course and putting his cherry on the ice cream by finishing with the New York Marathon.

Even more astounding was his physical condition at the completion of the big 50.

Given his weight at the start of the mission was 70kg you would expect his final weight to be something like 40kg, a couple of bones held together by running gear.

At the end he weighed 69.5 kg. Nothing to it.

He’s attracted his share of critics from the ultra-marathon world, with some claiming his feats are not as impressive as they seem.

Er…okay sourpusses. The criticism most likely stems from the fact that Karnazes is an unabashed self-promoter and the successful owner of several health food businesses.

It’s unlikely he lies awake at night worrying about the snarls from grumpy athletes who’ve probably run one too many desert marathons and have little to show for it.

Karnazes has his eyes on running a marathon in every country in the world in a year which sounds ludicrous, expensive, dangerous and highly likely.


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