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Running Tips for Beginners from Ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes

Think you can run a marathon? How about 50 of them in 50 days? Dean Karnazes did—he’s got some advice so you can, too (and avoid a bathroom break along the way). Plus, his favorite gear.

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Men’s Fitness: People know you as the ultra-marathon runner, but how did you get started?
Dean Karnazes: I was pretty athletic when I was a kid, and I used to love to run, but I sort of gave it up when I got into college. I thought if I got a good job I’d be set. I got into business school, got a great job at a Fortune 500 company, and I was so miserable. I hated going to the office and 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 asked where I was going, and I said I’m going to run 30 miles to celebrate my 30th birthday. They just passed it off as me being hammered—yeah, I was f—ked up, but I still did it. That day. It was life changing.

MF: What would you tell guys who are looking to get into competitive running?
DK: Start from the ground up. Go to a specialty running store and have them set you up with a good pair of shoes. It’s going to set you back a bit, but that way you’ll feel comfortable. If you’re feeling lazy and just want to sit on your couch and have pizza and beer, you’ll be like, I just dropped 150 bucks on those shoes, I better go out and use them. Cross-train, too—so many guys get into running, and they just run, and then they get injured. I’m a big believer in the ElliptiGO. Do hard-easy training— one day, go on a hard run, then an ElliptiGO workout the next day so there isn’t that repetitive microtrauma from the pounding of running.

MF: What’s a reasonable first race that a guy can train for?
DK: If you’re reasonably fit, I would shoot for a half marathon. I’d train a variety of terrains: pavement, trails, hills, flatlands, stadium stairs. That’s great strength training, too. Sign up for a half marathon six to nine months from now. Once you’ve got that goal in front of you, it’s a motivator.

MF: How do you cope with these extreme distance runs, both mentally and physically?
DK: It’s focus, discipline, and staying the course. In a common day I’m going to get a bunch of texts—you’re just bombarded with crap. Just to focus on one thing is almost zen-like.  It’s a huge, lofty goal, and it’s all-encompassing. But to run 200 miles, you really need to tune into it.

MF: You run extreme distances. We’ve heard you and other runners have trained yourselves to urinate while running, rather than stopping. Is that really true?
DK:  Yes. It’s a fine art, peeing without getting any on your shoes. The first time I saw it I was on this 100-mile run, and I saw these squiggles on the trail. People carry handheld water bottles, and I thought, Why is this guy just pouring out his water? He’s wasting it. I came up to a guy and I saw it and I was like, Jesus, he’s peeing.

Next: 3 pieces of gear Karnazes can't run without >>>

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