Since 1992, Dean Karnazas has been on a personal quest to shatter all types of human running boundaries. Some of the astounding feats he's achieved sound completely insane, but he took these challenges on and prevailed. Try some of these on for size: Dean once ran for 350 miles straight without sleeping; he undertook the daunting task of running a marathon to the South Pole - and this one will absolutely blow your mind, he completed 50 marathons in 50 consecutive days. He has been named by TIME Magazine as one of "The Top 100 Most Influential People In The World" and Fitness Magazine labeled him "The Fittest Man on The Planet." At the age of 51, he is showing no signs of slowing down and we think he's just the inspiration you need to whip yourself in shape for the coming spring & summer months.
When did you first get into professional marathon running?
A little over a decade ago. I’d been running semi-competitively for a while and finally decided to make it my life. Haven’t looked back.
Were you always a natural runner or was it a conscious decision you made?
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of running home from kindergarten. I’ve been a natural since the beginning. I’m 100% Greek and my father always insists we’re from the same village as Pheidippides, the original Greek marathoner. I always tell him, “Dad, we grew up in Southern California, what village in the hills of Greece are you possibly referring to?” (laughter)
You have been running marathons for over 3 decades - do any major highlights of your lengthy career stick out in your mind?
While I’ve had the great privilege of running and racing on all 7-continents, twice over now, in some of the most extreme and exotic locations imaginable—from a marathon to the South Pole to running a across the Sahara Desert—my most cherished accomplishment is running a 10K race with my daughter, Alexandria, on her 10th birthday. Nothing will ever surpass that experience.
What are your secrets to constantly maintaining your stamina and running health over all these years?
Greek genes. (more laughter) In sincerity, I do think heredity plays a role. They say the best thing you can do as a long-distance runner is choose your parents well. (continued laugher)
That said, I also take my fitness and athleticism seriously and do everything that I possibly can to be the best animal I can be, from diet & nutrition, to strength training, to mental preparation, to sleep and to commitment to family and togetherness.
You must follow a rigid diet too - what are some foods that are staples in your diet - and some foods you absolutely won't touch?
I used to eat just about anything. In fact, I once ordered a pizza while out on a long run and had them deliver it to me roadside. I’ve changed considerably since then and my diet has become much more refined and wholesome over the years. I’m basically following a hybrid model of a number of different diets: Paleo, Mediterranean, Raw, Pescaterian and Zone. As my mentor Jack LaLanne one quipped, “If man makes it, don’t eat it. And if it tastes good, spit it out!”
Most men - especially older gentlemen, avoid running because of risks of injury - what advice can you give them to thwart their fears?
Don’t listen to the media. The story that running is supposedly bad for you creates headlines, but don’t buy into the hype. As you get older, cross-training becomes increasingly important. Having an overall strong body and core will go a long way toward preventing injury. Some runners just run, and that can be a recipe for injury and ongoing issues.
Any marathons or other endurance events coming up this year that you are really excited about?
Starting next year, I’m planning on embarking on a worldwide running expedition to complete a marathon in every country on the globe in a 1-year period. There are 198 countries and I’m working with the State Department and UN to get the necessary passports and permits to be able to do this. It is a dream of mine and I am doing everything that I can to make this dream come true.
In the East Coast, we're coming off a seemingly endless winter - can you give a few solid tips for men who want to get into shape and adopt a healthy and sustainable running routine for the coming warmer months?
Do what you can. If that means getting on a treadmill indoors, so be it. Remain active and never sit down! Have your entire office and work environment raised to standing level and constantly be on your feet. Get a Fitbit and track your steps. Challenge yourself to a game of one-upmanship and crush your record!
You have probably been asked this a million times, but what do you LOVE most about running?
Freedom. Running is the ultimate expression of the human form doing best what it was naturally engineered to do. There is no greater display of independence and liberty.
Lastly, can you tell us about your recent collaboration with SOLE Custom Footwear?
I’ve been working with SOLE for nearly a decade now and we’ve constantly looked for ways to improve our offerings while also improving the environment we love to play in. I’m very proud of my affiliation with SOLE and hear from people all the time who tell me how much our products have helped them. To me, there’s no higher calling.
For more information, visit www.ultramarathonman.com