October 1, 2022
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30 Years Later, “Ultramarathon Man” Recreates All-Night Run That Launched Career, Propelled Sport – NBC Bay Area

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On his 30th birthday, in August of 1992, Dean Karnazes’ celebration started out in a fairly typical way: at a San Francisco bar with friends, sharing rounds of tequila.

What happened next, though, was far from typical and forever changed the course of Karnazes’ life.

“At about 11 o’clock at night, they said to me ‘Let’s order another round.’’’ 

“I said ‘No, instead of celebrating with another round of tequila I’m going to celebrate by running 30 miles.'”

Now, at that time, Karnazes was not the world-class ultramarathoner he would become, far from it. Although he had competed in high school, Karnazes hadn’t gone for a meaningful run in 15 years. What he was, however, was unhappy with his life. A career in marketing had left him stressed and unfulfilled.

Unsure if he were running toward something or away from it, Karnazes stripped down to his silk boxer shorts and began running south. About ten miles in, when Karnazes guesses the tequila wore off, he started to wonder if he had made a big mistake.

“Then, I looked up and I saw the stars and it was as if God spoke to me. I felt like for the first time in my life I was meant to be right where I was at that time in the universe.”

Karnazes stopped running after 30 miles in Half Moon Bay where he called his wife (collect, from a pay phone) to pick him up. He quit his job the following day and dedicated himself to very long-distance running.

Karnazes says the result of the decision he made that night has been an amazing life. He not only became one of the world’s best ultramarathoners, he played a pivotal role in launching what was an obscure sport into the public spotlight.

“I’ve lived a remarkable life. I’ve been on all seven continents twice. I’ve run a marathon to the South Pole, and I’ve run across the Sahara Desert. The things that I’ve done and the experiences that I’ve had are phenomenal.”

This all explains why, for his 60th birthday, Karnazes and a group of friends returned to the very same spot (30 years to the day since that fateful run) to retrace his journey. “It’s an emotional moment for me,” Karnazes said after downing a single shot of tequila and preparing to take off.

The crew wound their way through the night from San Francisco, down the coast to Half Moon Bay, arriving shortly after 8 in the morning. His wife was waiting for him this time.

Karnazes was celebrating his running career, sure, but there was something else he was grateful for. After writing his memoir, Ultramarathon Man, in 2006, Karnazes began receiving cards, letters, and emails from people all over the world who had read his book. Thousands of people reached out to let him know that his words had changed their lives: they either started running, rediscovered running, or simply were inspired to tackle what they once thought “impossible” in their lives.

 “I thought ‘Now I have a purpose.’ I’m not just pounding my chest. Running is very self-absorbing and it can be very selfish and I thought here’s a greater calling for my running. What other gift can you give to someone than the gift of inspiration?”



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