Let This Ultra-Marathon Runner Teach You About Mastering Pain

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Coors Light

Dean Karnazes runs. A lot. On an average week, Karnazes will run anywhere from 80 to 200 miles. Calculate that out and he’s running multiple marathons every single week. That sort of devotion to the act of running — putting one foot in front of the other no matter how sharp the pain — is astounding.

Karnazes has a laundry list of marathons and mega marathons he’s completed. He’s Forrest Gumped across the driest deserts, gone hundreds of miles in 100-degree heat, and traversed the Antarctic. It’s in these challenges that Karnazes feels his soul, discovers himself, and reveals a little bit of his superhuman composition.

By the time Karnazes hit 30 years old, he was lost in the modern consumer world. He’d gone to college, signed for a mortgage, and gotten the car loan like everyone told him he was supposed to do. But there was a hollowness to it all that he just couldn’t live with anymore. On his 30th birthday, it all came to a head. Karnazes stumbled out of a bar that night and he ran 30 miles home. By the time dawn arrived he felt like he’d truly pushed himself for the first time in his life.

“I tend to be compulsive. I’m a runner,” laughs Karnazes as he reminiscences about that first night running. “My life was a mess and what was I gonna do? I needed to do something dramatic and intense.” Now, usually doing something dramatic and intense doesn’t include running a marathon home from a bar through an entire night. And the exhaustion from doing so would probably be enough to put any of us off running for a lifetime. But not Karnazes. He was hooked.

Some people find therapy and reinvention in the unlikeliest of places. But you cannot find it unless you take a leap first and look for it.

“I just wanted to destroy myself, essentially,” Karnazes tells us. “And I thought running 30 miles might just do that. And it did.”

From the physical and mental exhaustion of a 30-mile run, a phoenix rose from the ashes in the form of an ultra-marathon man.

After his 30-miler, Karnazes started off slowly. He invested in some running shoes and gear and started running ten-mile jaunts. One day, two runners blew past him while he was struggling to run up a hill. Soon after, his competitive streak led him to join those same two runners in a 50-mile race. Before he knew it he’d qualified for a 100-miler.

Suddenly the man who had never run marathons before was running across California. The question of whether or not he could or should left his mind as the road he ran got longer and longer. “When you do it yourself, it breaks boundaries. The unimaginable becomes imaginable,” Karnazes tells us.

That first 100 miles turned him into an ultra marathon runner and he set out to conquer the world. Within a few years, Karnazes newfound inspiration for life folded into a globetrotting adventure as he ran ultra-marathons on every continent — twice! Even that wasn’t enough. He sought new heights and new records to break. This led to a 2006 set of runs where he ran 50 marathons in 50 days in all 50 US states.

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