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The Moving Crew

At Play With a Madman

Tuesday, March 29, 2005; Page HE03

"I hate working out indoors," Dean Karnazes tells me as we jog along the bike path in Rock Creek Park on a cool, rainy, windy day. "I hit the gym now and then, but I'd always rather be outdoors."

"Clearly," I think, as my shoes splash through another chilly puddle. I also prefer outdoors to in, but Karnazes takes his preference to extremes: He routinely runs 70, 80, 100 and more miles -- without stopping. His best is 262 miles, and he is shooting to run 300 miles nonstop. The cheerful Californian was on the East Coast last week pushing his new book, "Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner" (Tarcher).

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Listening to Your Trainer (The Washington Post, Feb 22, 2005)
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Before you shake your head and flip back to the Lean Plate Club, hear us out: Yes, Karnazes has a freakish hobby, a Lance-like resting heart rate and a cover-boy body that has, in fact, graced the front of numerous major magazines. But he also faces many challenges familiar to more pedestrian exercisers -- getting motivated to run when he doesn't feel like it, seeking inspiration to get through the next mile, keeping the routine interesting, balancing fitness with work and family.

"I run because I enjoy it," he explains as we pass the National Zoo. (I sense the gazelles peering reverently at Karnazes through the fence.) "It's the same reason I windsurf, mountain bike and snowboard. People need to find activities they enjoy, and they need to cross-train to keep it fun. If working out is torture, you simply won't do it." Sound familiar?

Like you and me, Karnazes has days when he'd rather not train. "I project forward," he explains. "I know how good I'll feel when I'm done. I have never felt worse after running than I did before starting out."

Karnazes, 42, has a graduate degree in food science and runs a health food business. He has a wife who works full time and two children (ages 7 and 10). Sure, he's annoyingly successful but he's also, by most accounts, a responsible spouse and parent, meaning he works his fitness in around other priorities in his life.

"I hear people say they can't exercise because of work, but there are ways around that. I carry a Treo [PDA] when I run long distances. I get and send e-mails, make phone calls and get a lot done. You really can do it." (We don't discuss coping with a gym's no-cell-phone rule.)

Karnazes says he works through issues while running. "I think about my five-year plan, my goals." Which are? "I want to go to Greece and run the original marathon route that Pheidippides ran, wearing the heavy body armor like he did and the same footwear. That would be cool." I had another word in mind, but I kept it to myself.

We ran for 80 minutes -- double my normal slog -- but (of course) I felt much better at the end than the start. (The day after is another question.) I asked Karnazes if he would feel this workout later -- soreness, fatigue, hair follicle strain, anything? "Well," he said politely, "No. But it was a good run. I'm glad we got out."

Me, too. You can learn a lot from a maniac, if you know how to listen. No chat this week. E-mail is move@washpost.com.

-- John Briley

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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