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Dean Karnazes Trains for an Ultramarathon

The professional ultramarathoner shares the bizarre story of his start and some functional (and fun) tips to becoming a runner.

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Dean Karnazes is simply unstoppable. He has run across Death Valley in 120-degree heat and completed a marathon to the South Pole in 40-degree below zero temperatures. He ran 50 marathons in 50 days in all 50 states, as well as 3,000 miles across the country—averaging 40 to 50 miles per day. Daunting as some of these feats may be, they are only a few examples of his exploits.

It might make the rest of us mere mortals feel better to think of Karnazes as a sort of superhuman—someone we’d never be able to catch up with even if we dedicated single every aspect of our lives to distance running. That may be so, but his ability to constantly shatter personal bests in various aspects of his endurance give us a clue into the limitless potential of the human body.  Karnazes is living proof of the body's ability to strengthen itself and eventually adapt to whatever training we put it through. You probably won't polish off a few marathons a week after reading this, but hopefully Karnazes' inspiring accomplishments will help get you out the door and running for the hills. Here is some insider advice from the man himself on how to do long distance running.

Take Baby Steps

You may be wondering how someone could ever get to a point where they can keep running for hundreds of miles at a time, or run marathon distances every day for weeks. Well, aside from the obvious methods of hard work and steadfast dedication, Karnazes remembers making his first move toward the lifestyle he leads today. In that respect, you might be pleasantly surprised to learn that he was a late bloomer.

"I used to love to run, but I sort of gave it up when I got into college,” Karnazes says. “After that, I got a great job at a Fortune 500 company, but I was so miserable. I hated going to the office, sitting in front of a desk. On my 30th birthday I was in a bar with my buddies, doing what you do on your 30th birthday, and I was just like, ‘I’m leaving.’ They were like, ‘where are you going?’ I said ‘I’m going to run 30 miles to celebrate my  birthday.’ They were like, ‘you’re so hammered, and you’re not a runner.’ I said, ‘Yeah I am, I’m f*cked up, but I’m still going to do it.’ So I walked out of the bar and ran 30 miles.”

While we don't advise that you get tanked and run a marathon, everyone has to start somewhere.

"It all starts with baby steps," says Karnazes. "Begin at the ground up by investing in a good pair of running shoes. Get them professionally fitted at a specialty running store by a knowledgeable staff member. Then set a goal for yourself. It might just be a 5K or 10K to start, but sign up for an upcoming event. Having a future goal will help provide the motivation you need to keep going when you’re feeling lazy or demoralized. Who knows, a marathon might follow that first event—or perhaps even something farther."

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