Karnazes at the 2008 Napa Valley Marathon expo
23 August 1962
|Education||San Clemente High School (1981)|
|Known for||Ran 350 miles (560 km) in 80 hours and 44 minutes without sleep in 2005|
|Height||1.72 m (5 ft 8 in)|
|Weight||70.76 kg (156.0 lb)|
Dean Karnazes (b. Constantine Karnazes August 23, 1962) (pronounced car-NAH-sis), is an American ultramarathon runner, and author of Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner, which details ultra endurance running for the general public.
Karnazes was born in Inglewood in Los Angeles County, California southwest of Los Angeles, to Nick and Fran Karnazes, parents of Greek ancestry. He had two siblings, brother Kraig and a sister, Pary, who died in an automobile accident at the age of 18.
His father worked as a field naturalist for the Orange County Department of Education in 2006. The younger Karnazes grew up in Diamond Bar, California and San Clemente, California. In 2006 he said that he remained close to the friends he made at San Clemente High School, which was also attended by both his siblings. Growing up in the city of San Clemente gave him a love of the outdoors, and an appreciation of its small-town feel. At the time his parents still lived in the house where he had grown up.
Early running career
While attending kindergarten, Karnazes began running home from school; he took up running for fun.
At first, Karnazes ran direct routes from school to his home. Later, he began to run diversionary routes that would extend his run and take him into uncharted territory. By third grade he was participating in and organizing short running events with other children. As Karnazes grew older, he began testing his limits: by age eleven he had hiked rim-to-rim across the Grand Canyon and had climbed Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States; for his 12th birthday, he cycled 40 miles (64 km) to his grandparents' home for fun without telling his parents.
In junior high school Karnazes met Jack McTavish, a track coach who became Karnazes' mentor and introduced him to the appeal of long-distance running. McTavish's basic running instructions were simple: "Go out hard and finish harder." Using this motto as a basis, that season Karnazes won the one-mile (1.6 km) California State Long-Distance Championship held on the Mt SAC track. At the end of the race, Coach McTavish commented: "Good work son, how'd it feel?" To this Karnazes replied: "Well, going out hard was the right thing to do. It felt pretty good." The coach replied: "If it felt good, you didn't push hard enough. It's supposed to hurt like hell." A week after the race, Karnazes' father's job was transferred to San Clemente. These were the last comments the coach ever said to Karnazes, who has stated that he lives by these words to this day.
In 1976, as a high school freshman at San Clemente High, Karnazes joined the cross country team under Benner Cummings. Cummings' running theory was that running is about finding your inner peace; his motto was "run with your heart". That season, Karnazes was awarded "Most Inspirational" team member. Karnazes also ran his first endurance event that year, a fundraising run on a track for underprivileged children, finishing in just under six hours and raising a dollar a lap from his sponsors. While most students ran only 10–15 laps around the track, he ran 105, a full marathon.
Karnazes was not compatible with his high school track coach, and stopped running for fifteen years.
Racing highlights and criticisms
Karnazes has completed a number of endurance events, mostly running events, but also a swimming event. Most notable achievements include:
- Ran 350 miles (560 km) in 80 hours and 44 minutes without sleep in 2005
- Single-handedly completed "The Relay", a 199-mile (320 km) run from Calistoga to Santa Cruz, eleven times
- Ran a marathon to the South Pole in −13 °F (−25 °C) temperatures without snowshoes in 2002
- Ran a marathon in each of the 50 states in 50 consecutive days in 2006
Other athletic achievements include:
- Winner, Badwater Ultramarathon (135 miles (217 km) across Death Valley in 120 °F (49 °C) temperatures), 2004 (with five other top-10 finishes from 2000-2008)
- Winner, Vermont Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run, 2006
- Overall Winner, 4 Deserts Race Series, 2008 
- American Ultrarunning Team, World Championships, 2005, 2008
- 148 miles (238 km) in 24 hours on a treadmill, 2004
- Eleven-time 100-Mile/1 Day Silver Buckleholder at the Western States Endurance Run (i.e., better than ten twenty-four-hour finishes), 1995–2006
- Ran 3,000 miles (4,800 km) across the United States from Disneyland to New York City in 75 days, running 40 to 50 miles (65 to 80 km) per day, 2011
- Swimming across the San Francisco Bay
Other honors include:
- Competitor magazine Endurance Athlete of the Year Award winner, 2008, 2006, 2005
- ESPN ESPY Award winner, “Best Outdoor Athlete”, 2007
- Men's Journal, Adventure Hall of Fame, 2007
- Outside magazine, Ultimate Top 10 Outdoor Athletes, 2004
50 marathons in 50 states on 50 consecutive days
In 2006, Karnazes embarked on the well-publicized Endurance 50: 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 consecutive days. Beginning with the Lewis and Clark Marathon in St. Louis on September 17, 2006, it finished with the New York City Marathon on November 5. Eight of the 50 races were conventional marathon races. Since marathon races are typically held only on weekends, on the other days Karnazes (accompanied by between one and 50 runners) ran the course of a marathon in each state using the help of the race director and staff of each event to officially run the certified course, but on a different day than the “live” event. (For example, as part of the 50/50/50, Karnazes ran the official course of the Boston Marathon, but not the race itself, which is held in mid-April.)
Karnazes overcame the endurance and logistical difficulties of this goal and finished the final marathon, the NYC Marathon, on the official race day in 3 hours and 30 seconds. He weighed 154 lbs (70 kg) at the start and 153 lbs (69.5 kg) at the end.
After finishing the 50/50/50, Karnazes decided to run home to San Francisco from New York City. He was expected to finish the trip in January 2007. However Karnazes chose to end this trek December 15, 2006, in St. Charles, Missouri, to spend more time with his family.
The adventure was the primary subject of film director JB Benna's 2008 film entitled UltraMarathon Man: 50 Marathons - 50 States - 50 Days, which was the first feature film about Karnazes. The film was produced by Journeyfilm, had a national theatrical release in 300 screens in 2008 and was released on DVD and Blu-ray in 2009.
A similar project, undertaken by Sam Thompson to raise money for victims of Hurricane Katrina, was finishing as Karnazes began his project. Thompson ran 51 marathons (all 50 states and D.C.) in 50 days.
Karnazes' achievements have been derided on some running websites (such as LetsRun.com) as tainted with hyperbole. For example, critics have pointed out that his website's claim that he won the running division of the inaugural South Pole marathon does not clarify that he was the only entrant in that division.
Former elite athlete Weldon Johnson said that the criticism is partly due to Karnazes' ability to attract sponsors and gain attention for feats that may be less spectacular than they appear. Journalist Helene Elliot quotes Johnson as saying:
- "There are a lot of runners who could do what Dean does and in many cases have done it before him, they just have not received the publicity. Yet, Dean allows himself to be marketed as something he is not....Dean's biggest accomplishment is not in running, but in marketing."
Johnson praised Karnazes for his charity work.
Ultra-marathoner John Morelock defended Karnazes, but also said that Karnazes was "very good, not great. He's not a racer, just a very good performer." He believed that the criticism is sparked by unfamiliarity with ultra-running, and underestimates the mental and physical endurance required.
Karnazes said that he has come to ignore the criticism in favor of the hundreds of e-mails of people who say that he has inspired them.
In 1995, Karnazes founded Energy Well Natural Foods in San Francisco and he remains president of the company, now called Good Health Natural Foods. Karnazes is also a regular columnist for Men's Health.
According to his sponsor, Karnazes has been featured on The Today Show, 60 Minutes (2009), The Late Show with David Letterman, CBS News, CNN, ESPN, The Howard Stern Show, NPR’s Morning Edition, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and the BBC. He has also appeared on the cover of Runners' World, Outside, and Wired magazine’s, and has been featured in TIME, Newsweek, People, GQ, The New York Times, USA TODAY, The Washington Post, Men’s Journal, Forbes, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, and the London Telegraph, among others. Karnazes won Competitor magazine's “Endurance Athlete of the Year” award three times, and also earned ESPN’s ESPY award.
The "Ultra Marathon Man" episode of Stan Lee's Superhumans documentary television series maintained that Karnazes is able to reduce the build-up of lactic acid over long periods of time. Karnazes also ascribes his endurance feats to an extraordinary ability to remain under his lactate threshold - his body's ability to clear lactate from his blood and convert it to energy.
Yet Chris Carmichael, former coach of Lance Armstrong, reported that tests of Karnazes at his Performance Center in Aspen in 2006 showed a VO2 max (64.8) and lactate threshold (63.4% of VO2 max) that was merely "above average".
Karnazes had discovered alcohol while in school, and was twice expelled for attending school while drunk. This behavior continued with all-night binges at Cal Poly, until the death of his sister.
Karnazes attended California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, where his major subject was food science technology. He attended graduate school at the same institution, ending up as the class valedictorian. He paid for his education by obtaining scholarships and grants, and by working at a campus health center. Karnazes then went to the University of San Francisco's McLaren School of Business. He holds graduate degrees in Science and Business.
Karnazes is married to Julie, whom he met in 9th grade at San Clemente High School. Karnazes' children accompanied their father for much of his run of 50 marathons in 50 states, as they were home-schooled at the time.
- Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner, Tarcher (March 2, 2006) ISBN 978-1-58542-480-1
- 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days (with Matt Fitzgerald) Grand Central Publishing (August 12, 2009) ISBN 978-0-446-58184-4
- Run: 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss, Rodale (March 1, 2011) ISBN 978-1-60529-279-3. Winner of British Sports Book Awards, Best Publicity Campaign
- "'Ultramarathon Man' to run across America". OC Register. 5 February 2011. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
- Elliott, Helene (December 21, 2006). "In long run, it's about journey, not destination". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 30, 2013. Retrieved August 30, 2013.
- Run 100s biography
- Karnazes, Dean (2006). Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner. Penguin. ISBN 1-58542-278-9.
- Ray, Kaerie (7 September 2006). "SCHS Back-to-School Tribute". SC Times. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
- Gorney, Cynthia (October 2006). "On the Road Again and Again". Runners' World. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
- Spain, Kevin (21 May 2009). "Ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes will run 100 miles, just to run a marathon". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
- Far Out Retrieved 2013-04-17.
- ""Team Dean" Returns to Ultramaraton Man form for Eleventh Solo Run" (Press release). 2009-03-01.
- South Pole Marathon Retrieved 2013-04-17.
- Badwater Ultramarathon Race Results, 2000 to the present Retrieved 2013-04-17.
- Vermont 100 Endurance Race 2006 Results Retrieved 2013-04-17.
- 4 Deserts Champions Retrieved 2013-04-17.
- Chapman Logic
- Western States Endurance Run recordholders
- Moore, Frazier (10 May 2011). "Dean Karnazes' run across America ends in victory". San Francisco Chronicle.
- "Dean Karnazes comes to Stratford, Texas". Stratford, Texas: Stratford Police Department. 23 March 2011.
- Retrieved 2009-06-15.
- Sheff, David (October 19, 2006). "He's Still Running Out There Somewhere". New York Times. Retrieved January 31, 2011.
- Dean Karnazes; Matt Fitzgerald (Aug 2008). 50/50 Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days. Wellness Central. ISBN 978-0-446-58183-7. page 250
- Dean Karnazes; Matt Fitzgerald (Aug 2008). 50/50 Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days. Wellness Central. ISBN 978-0-446-58183-7. page 267
- Ultramarathon Man: 50 Marathons, 50 States, 50 Days at the Internet Movie Database
- "Marathon & Beyond - The web site for marathoners and ultrarunners". Marathonandbeyond.com. 2006-08-15. Retrieved 2013-05-15.
- Wilson, Sara, On the Run: Pushing limits in business and life keeps the ultramarathon man going., Entrepreneur, March 2006
- Dunleavy, Kelly (22 February 2011). "U-Top-It and Dean Karnazes to be on Regis and Kelly". Patch Media.
- "Dean Karnazes, Ultra Runner". TheNorthFace.com. TheNorthFace.com. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
- Cox, David (31 August 2013). "Dean Karnazes: the man who can run for ever". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 31 August 2013.
- Sayago Golub, Joanna. "Coached Answers". Runner's World. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- Anderson, Lessley, Ultra Marathon Man, SF Weekly, January 14, 2004
- Sachs, Andrea (11 April 2012). "Ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes Can’t Stop to Talk". TIME Magazine (TIME). Retrieved 31 August 2013.
- "Prior winners". British Sports Book Awards. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
- Ultramarathon man: Dean Karnazes - Official web site for Dean Karnazes
- Dean Karnazes Interview - Midsection Training