Why Dean Karnazes Runs Ultramarathons—And Thinks You Should Too

Fitbit Ambassador and ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes weighs in on what’s lost and what’s gained by logging more than 26.2 miles in a single shot. In a world of 24/7 news cycles and incessant social media feeds, ultramarathoning may appear to serve no purpose. But for some of us—and possibly for you, if you give it a chance— ultramarathoning could be an antidote to the madness of everyday living.

Ultramarathoning Steadies the Pace

Dominating the 26.2-mile course of a marathon takes drive, dedication, and hours of training. But running an ultramarathonanything longer than a standard marathon but often consisting of 50 or 100-mile distancestakes a special kind of crazy. You have to be willing to train and prep like never before. You must summon the will to get out of bed before sunrise to do something that’s slow, methodical, and exceedingly difficult. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that few things in life require as much commitment and sacrifice, and that’s just to get through the easy days. There’s simply no way to finish an ultramarathon without giving yourself up to it entirely. There are no shortcuts, there is no path of least resistance—dues must be paid. As German-American writer Charles Bukowski said, “Find what you love and let it kill you.”

As the world moves faster and faster, ultramarathoning steadies the pace. That’s not to say I avoid technology—most days, I use my Fitbit Ionic to track my outings and Fitbit Flyer to listen to music and audiobooks—but few things in life make sense the way placing one foot in front of the other over and over again does.

Ultramarathoning Is Hard—In a Good Way!

If I haven’t yet convinced you of the virtues of ultramarathoning, there’s another key reason you should consider lacing up for the long haul: it really hurts. This might seem like a strange benefit, but in modern times our thinking has become twisted. We associate the absence of pain, discomfort, and struggle with happiness, but in many ways, we’re so comfortable that we’re miserable. We get in our air-conditioned cars, ride in high-speed elevators to our air-conditioned offices, and order takeout for lunch. Life is so easy, which is exactly why you should consider trying something excruciatingly difficult.

In a world that’s become obsessed with convenience and ease, ultramarathoning is grueling and uncertain. It’s an activity that literally grinds you into submission—and then you reach the halfway point. That’s when things really get interesting. When an ultramarathon starts to hurt, that’s when you know you’re doing it right. YouTube is entertaining, but running across Death Valley until your knees buckle is real fun. Toenails? Ha! They’ll grow back in due course.

Depending on your sensibilities, this is either an outright condemnation of ultramarathoning or a gleaming endorsement. If you’re sitting there reading this story thinking torture is having the cable guy show up 15 minutes late, running 100 continuous miles will probably never top your to-do list. But if the idea of pushing the boundaries of human possibilities intrigues you, perhaps a few blisters and debilitating muscle cramps aren’t entirely unreasonable.

Sure, ultramarathoning may be risky and perhaps even dangerous, but if running’s a drug that threatens my life, I’m OK with that. My finish line’s a pine box, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

3 Comments   Join the Conversation

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I agree with you. My wife and I run one or two marathons per year; it has become old news, so much so that we have not trained for the last three, simply showed up. Our time is not excellent, but we were comfortable. Maybe we should go into ultras…. Thanks!

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