Last Friday my running group had the opportunity to do a fun run with the Ultramarathon Man himself, Dean Karnazes, who was in town representing a sponsor for a local 5K race. I’m not a celebrity hound or star-struck kind of person, but it was such an honor meeting one of my first running heroes.
As I stated in my last post, Dean’s book Ultramarathon Man was one of the first running books I read when I began running six years ago. Dean is an undeniably talented runner, running distances I will never attempt. To meet him in person, and discover what a down-to-earth, genuinely nice guy he is, was a real treat.
My running group, the White Rock Running Co-op (WRRC) is a group of friends I’ve run with for the past five years. A core group of us met while training, pacing, and coaching with a local running group, and eventually branched off and created our own group. There’s no charge, no politics, no games–just a group of people who love to run. We run together each Wednesday evening and Saturday mornings (long runs), and we generally follow a marathon or half-marathon training plan.
This weekend about 30 of us are flying to Eugene, OR to run the marathon and half-marathon there.
The group met Dean at the American Airlines Center, home to the Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars, on a cool, overcast morning. Some people managed to sneak away from work, others made a day of it.
After an introduction and a few photos, we ran the length of the Katy Trail, which is roughly seven miles total. The first half is gradually uphill, and I had a tough time keeping up with the group. After about two and a half miles, when I looked down at my Garmin and saw the pace was 8:05, I decided to walk until the group turned back around.
Having already done a race pace run on Wednesday night (which was nowhere close to an 8:05 pace!), and knowing I was doing a 12 miler the next day, it wasn’t a tough decision to make.
The group quickly came back down the trail and I jumped in behind everyone else. It started to rain lightly, and thankfully the back of the pack had slowed down to a more reasonable 8:45 pace.
As we made the turn back to the AAC, Dean graciously stood off to the the side in order to be the last one to finish. He said we could brag to everyone that we had run with Dean Karnazes and “beat” him.
Yeah, right, Dean.
A few observations about Dean:
- He has ZERO body fat. Zilch. His legs are incredible, with clearly defined quads and calves. Everyone was amazed at those legs. The men were envious and the women just wanted to touch them.
- Everyone was impressed at how nice he really is. He thanked us several times for coming out to run with him, and talked about his love of running. He was very down-to-earth and humble. He acknowledged how lucky he is that he gets to run for a living.
- He says he never sits down all day. He even has a special desk he uses at home that’s at waist height where he does all his writing. He says it’s one of the ways he stays in shape, and it helps train his body to stay on his feet for long periods of time. (I think it’s just natural for him.)
- He does a lot of cross training.
- He will run the Badwater Ultra again this summer. I asked how many pairs of shoes he usually goes through in Badwater, and he surprisingly said he hopes to use only one pair, which would be a full size larger than he usually wears. And he will run on the white line so the soles don’t melt.
- One of his favorite things to eat on his very long runs is a sandwich of bread, almond butter, banana slices, honey, and a packet of soy sauce drizzled on top of the bread. Genevieve made one the next day and said it was yummy!
Those of us who didn’t have to be back at work had lunch and post-run beers, and talked about running with Dean Karnazes. It was a good day of friendship, laughter, and doing what we love most: running.
Tomorrow my running group is running with Dean Karnazes. He’s in town for a local run and interview, and wanted to run with a local grassroots running organization. The group I run with, The White Rock Running Co-Op, is going to run six miles with him tomorrow on the Katy Trail, an old railroad line that’s been converted into a running/walking/biking path.
Karnazes was probably my first running hero. I remember coming across his first book, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner, after I had been running for about a year or so. I hadn’t even run my first half marathon at that time, and couldn’t believe there were people who ran the incredible distances he ran.
I’ve learned a lot since then.
Not only has he run the infamous Badwater Ultra in Death Valley, and Western States, but several years ago he ran 50 marathons, in 50 states, in 50 days–and wrote a book about it.
I haven’t run an ultramarathon, but I do have six marathons under my belt. Even though a month long illness derailed my plans for marathon #7, I’m looking forward to running the half marathon in Eugene next weekend.
Being able to run tomorrow with my first running hero is going to be one of those milestones in my life I’ll never forget. I’ll keep you posted!