Knackered Downunder observes a man who tests endurance to the limit

Seeing as the Knackered Hack is losing his faith in marathon running, he’s unlikely to find the example of American endurance runner Dean Karnazes as inspiring as I did.

Karnazes has just finished a tour of Australia and New Zealand, getting in some long-distance running (naturally) and promoting his book Ultramarathon Man, Confessions of an all-night runner. The book is well worth reading. If you walk away with one theme, it’s the value of sheer doggedness and determination and how far they can get you. In Karnazes’ case, it’s literally hundreds of miles.

Karnazes is clearly an exceptional athlete. You would have to be to run a marathon at the South Pole or to complete the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run (161km): “a continuous non-stop wilderness trek through the mountains and canyons of the Sierra Nevada range in California,” as Karnazes says. Participants have to cover the trail in under 24 hours.

Karnazes’ other more general theme is that we all can achieve. For him, it’s a question of willpower, endurance and enthusiasm. He’s at pains (a regular part of his life) to show that he’s just one of the guys; he has a wife and two kids and a job as a very successful sales executive. In reality, it’s really very inspiring.

Here’s someone who manages to train before and after work and during lunch hours and still have time for his family. In one case, he runs 199 miles (320 km), starting Friday in the Californian town of Calistoga, and ending Sunday in Santa Cruz, then rides with his kids on a rollercoaster and other amusements, and finally turns up for work at 0745 AM on Monday. The run, known as The Relay is divided into 36 legs of about 5.5 miles (9 km). The other runners consisted of 12-person teams with each team member running three of these legs; Karnazes ran it on his own.

Even among the fittest of the fit, ultra-endurance athletes remain a freakish anomaly. People can understand running a marathon, but running four or five back to back, running for forty-eight hours straight, or running in the hottest and coldest places on earth transcends rational thought. It contradicts people’s sense of what is possible”

                                                                                                                                 -Karnazes

Karnazes took up running again at 30 after a long absence – in fact, when drunk after his 30th birthday celebration; he went out and ran 30 miles right there and then. As he puts it, “Every devout runner has an awakening. We know the place, the time and the reason we accepted running into our life.”

While I’m doubtful about my own abilities to run 100 miles, Karnazes’ message certainly can give us all more confidence in our potential.

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