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Ultramarathon Runner Dean Karnazes: “Why the world would be a better place if everyone ran a marathon”

An Interview With Dr. William Seeds

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Crazy as it sounds, I think the world would be a better place if everyone ran a marathon. You learn more about yourself in the span of 26.2 miles than you previously knew in a lifetime. Running a marathon is an outward journey, but mostly an inward one.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dean Karnazes. Dean Karnazes was named by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. An acclaimed endurance athlete and bestselling author, he is the 2019 recipient of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition Lifetime Achievement Award.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Dean! Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Well, I got to run to the White House to meet First Lady Michelle Obama (from Los Angeles). After sixty-five days of running I literally ran into the White House, right down the main hallway, then banked a left-hand turn out to the South Lawn where First Lady Obama was waiting for me.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

I ran 30-miles, nonstop, through the middle of the night, drunk. That was my first ultramarathon and I learned that once the alcohol wears off it really hurts.

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

Let’s see, I once ran 50 marathons, in all 50 states, in 50 consecutive days. That was quite a feat. I’ve run hundreds of marathons and ultramarathons on all 7 continents and am the 2019 recipient of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition Lifetime Achievement Award.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My high school cross-country coach had a profound influence on my life. He told me, “Don’t run with your legs, run with your heart.” He taught me that you will do better at anything when you have passion.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

We tend to look at the overall goal and think it’s impossible. Instead, try to break it down to make your every action consistent with your goal. Take baby steps. The battle is won or lost with each individual action we take, and they ultimately determine success or failure.

Next, learn to embrace the journey. Oftentimes we’re so focused on trying to reach the goal we lose sight of the voyage along the way. Every day is an experience worth savoring, both our successes and our failures. Reflect and celebrate both.

Finally, sometimes it just comes down to toughing it out. Good ol’ fashion discipline can help your habits stick.

Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)

1) Never sit down. Do everything you can standing up. The only time I sit down is when I’m forced, like on an airplane.

2) Stay hydrated. I use Ultima Replenisher to keep my electrolytes in balance throughout the day (without added calories).

3) Walk barefoot on the earth. It’s amazing how restorative this practice can be.

4) Laugh at yourself. We all do a lot of crazy things, chuckle at yourself often.

5) Every day, tell someone why you appreciate them. Express gratitude.

As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?

1) Exercise boosts morale. Doing something difficult brings with it an unparalleled sense of fulfillment.

2) Exercise causes pain and struggle, which is the essence of a life worth living.

3) Exercise provides an outlet to escape the bombardment of everyday living. It’s rejuvenating in this regard.

For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?

1) Burpees. Probably the most hated, but most beneficial single move a person can do.

2) Aerobic exercise of at least 20-mintues, at least four days per week (the higher the intensity the better). Make it hurt.

3) Lunges or squats. Depending on your fitness and range of motion, lunges or squats are an easy bodyweight exercise anyone can do.

In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long term injury?

Soreness after exercise is usually a symptom of being out of shape or pushing too hard. I recommend light exercise as a means to overcome soreness. Active recovery, as opposed to passive recovery, reduces soreness quicker.

I also recommend cross-training. I’m a runner and many runners end up injured due to a lack of overall muscle development. The worst thing a runner can do is only run. You need to condition your entire body.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

I’m 100 percent Greek and a sucker for Greek literature. In Nikos Kazantzakis’ Report to Greco he asks for a command from his beloved grandfather, who tells him: “Reach for what you can, my child.” Somewhat unsatisfied, he asks his grandfather for a more difficult command, to which his grandfather booms, “Reach for what you cannot!”

I love that quote, reach for what you cannot.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Crazy as it sounds, I think the world would be a better place if everyone ran a marathon. You learn more about yourself in the span of 26.2 miles than you previously knew in a lifetime. Running a marathon is an outward journey, but mostly an inward one.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

My Dad always used to tell me, “It’s not how many times you get knocked down that matters, it’s how many times you get back up.”

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would love to have a glass of kombucha with the Dalai Lama. You said anyone in the world. Remember, reach for what you cannot.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Just type my name in Google. It’s the first “dean k” that pops up.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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