'Ultramarathon Man' Dean Karnazes visits Columbus for group run tonight

ssorich@ledger-enquirer.comAugust 2, 2013 

Go ahead, tell Dean Karnazes it's not normal to run extreme distances. He's prepared to respond.

"Who says?" Karnazes replied during a recent phone interview. "I don't subscribe to it. I think it's an easy out for people."

This comes from a guy who has run 350 continuous miles. He's participated multiple times in the 135-mile Badwater race, billed as "the world's toughest foot race." He's eyeing an upcoming global marathon expedition -- running a marathon in every country of the world in one year.

Karnazes, often called "Ultramarathon Man," will participate in a free group run tonight in downtown Columbus. The event begins at 6 p.m. at Big Dog Running Company, 1104 Broadway. Participants can run 2, 3 or 6 miles.

Karnazes will sign autographs after the event, which is open to runners of all pace levels. "This is a very inclusive event," he said.

He's here to promote The North Face Endurance Challenge, which comes to F.D. Roosevelt State Park Sept. 28-29. The event includes trail races of varying distances.

"The North Face motto is never stop exploring. We encourage people to come out and try their first trail run," said Karnazes, who is based in San Francisco. He is married with two children.

Karnazes offered straightforward advice for anyone who's on the fence about starting a running program: "If the notion exists, you've got to do it."

Karnazes came to Columbus for a similar event last year. Looking back on the visit, he said our running community is a refreshing departure from the sedentary lifestyles that often make national headlines.

"You guys are the exception, and I think the shining example of how we could be," Karnazes said.

Nationally, things could be turning a corner, he added. Karnazes pointed to heightened interest in running, thanks in part to creative race concepts like color runs and Tough Mudder challenges. "Participation is going through the roof," he said.

He cited runners' resilience, a trait particularly evident after the Boston Marathon bombings. He participated in this year's Boston Marathon, but finished before the explosions. He said the bombings highlighted how difficult it is to completely patrol a marathon.

At 50, does Karnazes know when he'll stop running?

"My finish line is a pine box," he said.

Sonya Sorich, 706-571-8516.

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