The Endurance Evangelist
Didn't even know Dean Karnazes was in town did you, fat ass?
I'm talking to you, Mrs. Gawd-I'm-sitting-in-the-Starbucks-drive-thru-for-19-minutes-waiting-for-two-muffins-and-a-triple-latte-prayin'-I-make-it-home-for- The-View. And you, Mr. I'm-stopping-for-a-dozen-wings-and-a-pitcher-of-beer-but-I'll-text-you-later-from-my-BlackBerry-before-nestling-into-the-butt-groove-of- my-couch-for-three-hours-of-pizza-'n-Cowboys.
Damn, people. Y'all are so busy having seconds and helping Dallas to fourth on this year's Men's Fitness list of America's fattest cities you don't even know who Karnazes is. Do you?
Shame. Because to save your soul--and possibly your life--Dean Karnazes just ran another marathon. In fact, he's running 50 of them. On 50 consecutive days. In 50 different states.
"I simply want to inspire people to be more active," Karnazes says after delivering his 26.2-mile sermon to Dallas during a recent rain-soaked Tuesday. "We need to wake up and reclaim our health. Before it's too late."
Accepting this 50-50-50 proposition--officially The North Face Endurance 50--makes Karnazes (pronounced car-NASS-is) even more masochistic than Todd Haley. Only a cloned combo of David Blaine/Forrest Gump could handle his daily planner, which since September 17 has resembled a gruesome Groundhog Day:
Marathon. Marathon. Marathon. Marathon. Marathon. Marathon. Marathon. Marathon. Marathon...
Dallas was No. 24. As of Tuesday, Karnazes had conquered 31. He doesn't plan on stopping until November 5 in New York, after running 1,310 miles and reshaping America.
"I hope people don't think he's Forrest Gump, just out here running for the sake of running," says Wellstone's Dallas White Rock Marathon chairman Chuck Dannis. "He's sending an articulate, important message."
For a fitness freak who's run 350 continuous miles, mountain-biked for 24 consecutive hours and completed marathons at the South Pole and Death Valley, a day in Dallas is like a jog in the park.
Most nights Karnazes sleeps on a bus. But after an 8:30 p.m. arrival here October 9--thanks to Dallas' Squires Group marketing firm--Dean, wife Julie, kids Alexandria (11) and Nicholas (9) are afforded a night at Hotel ZaZa. Instead of another night scarfin' salmon and bitchin' about the spinach shutdown, Karnazes indulges on room-service steak and family quality time.
"Amazing," Karnazes says. "That's what I call a special treat."
Tuesday morning, however, dawns wet and wheezy. Driving to American Airlines Center's parking lot G, the pounding rain synchronizes with Karnazes' sinuses, stuffed with a nasty cold from a recent Alaska-to-Hawaii climate change. But again energy is the elixir providing the "runner's high" before his first step.
"Some mornings are harder than others and, to be honest, this one wasn't great," Karnazes will say in exactly 4:12:20. "But seeing all these smiling faces raring to go--it's an immediate turn-on."
Because he's insane, incomprehensible and inspirational, a tour-high 75 Karnazes crazies have paid $100 to run in the rain. Led by a police escort along the same course that will host The Rock on December 10, Dean and his disciples splash through Turtle Creek, around White Rock Lake, up Lakewood and back to AAC. In the end, his effortless glide across the finish line prompts a stunning realization: The most amazing individual athletic feat in our city in 2006 was accomplished without a single drop of sweat.
"I only sweat if I sprint," Karnazes says with a laugh. "This event is definitely not about sprinting."
For a guy who's run 26.2 miles for 24 straight days in 24 different states, Karnazes looks like he just left the library. At mile 22--running a 9:38 pace that would finish two hours behind regular Rock winners--his heart rate maxed out at 110 beats per minute. Same level you reach frantically race-walking from car to CiCi's buffet.
"He talked the whole time, answering questions and telling stories," says Stacy Mullikin after running alongside Karnazes. "It was like he was just sitting around having a cup of coffee. It's unbelievable."
What does Karnazes do after inching closer to history? Accepts a medal from 5-year-old Texas Scottish Rite Hospital poster boy Cody McCasland. ("You'll outrun me someday," Dean tells the kid with the magic prosthetic legs.) Accepts a box of TheraFlu from Dannis. ("A get-well, going-away present," Chuck jokes.) And spends an hour signing autographs.
Eventually Karnazes will retire to the white bus with marble floors and a queen-size bed. He'll eat (6,000 calories a day; no refined sugars), send e-mails and creep almost halfway to immortality.
"Halfway, huh? They told me there'd be no math involved," he says. "I'm just hoping for fresh legs and fresh faces, and tomorrow I'll get up and run again."
After 19 hours in Dallas, the Karnazes Karnival leaves at 3 p.m. for Baton Rouge, then Huntsville, Alabama; Huntington, West Virginia...
Trainer Chris Carmichael, same guy who whipped Lance Armstrong's legs into legendary shape, says that, other than a perfect stride, Karnazes isn't genetically gifted. The 5-foot-8, 155-pound 43-year-old with the 5 percent body fat, coconut calves, yellow short shorts and Terminator shades may look the part of an alien master race sent here to kick our ass and take our lunch money. But turns out he's really just a passionate guy with a severe case of the runs.
His "50 Ways to Leave Your Blubber" crusade is noble, but ultimately unrealistic. Isn't it? The Ultramarathon Man can run for endless days and countless miles, but he's trying to hack into the habits of a sedentary society that lost its fascination with jogging when Jim Fixx dropped dead in his running shoes in '84 and these days is content with fast food and slow metabolisms.
If Karnazes can get America off the couch, he truly is Superman in sneakers.
"We're growing steadily fatter because of inactivity and poor diet," Karnazes says. "It's scary the direction we're headed. We'd be a much happier society if we enjoyed the outdoors."
Consider Karnazes' lasting legacy as a cattle prod up your titanic tushes. Get up, get out and get moving. Run a marathon. Jog a 10K. Walk around the block. Crawl in a circle.
After all he's doing, at least put down that fried Coke.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.