50 marathons, 50 days, 50 states

Karnazes' route 50 is paved with determination, will to help others


November 02, 2006|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,Sun Reporter

On Sunday in New York, Dean Karnazes will complete his goal of running 50 marathons in 50 days.

So what are his plans for Monday?

"I might go out for a run," he said.

Karnazes ran the Baltimore Marathon course yesterday, No. 46 on the wish list of the tireless Californian whose mission has drawn worldwide attention.

He would have done this race Oct. 14, when the marathon was actually run. But Karnazes, 43, was busy that day huffing his way through Hartford, Conn.

It has been this way since Sept. 17, when the sports marketing consultant began the staggering task of running one marathon a day through each of the 50 states. Eight are live races; the rest, re-creations.

His motivation?

"To inspire people to be more active," Karnazes said. "I'm trying to issue a wake-up call to the nation, especially children, to at least get out and walk around the block. Collectively, we'd be a lot healthier."

The message is getting through. To date, Karnazes has raised more than $100,000 for Karno Kids, the runner's charity that promotes youth fitness. In Greensboro, N.C., on Tuesday, one benefactor donated $5,000.

"I think [Karnazes] is crazy, but - God love him - it is an amazing feat," said Chris Tomlinson, Baltimore Marathon race director. "Fifty marathons in 50 days in 50 states? The travel alone is enough to kill you, even without stopping to run a 26.2-mile race."

Yesterday, 30 people paid $100 apiece to run with Karnazes. Seven of them crossed the finish line together at M&T Bank Stadium, arm-in-arm with the man they called their mentor. Their time was 4 hours, 3 minutes.

"He's not nuts. He's a role model," said Brian Nasuta, 22, of Parkville. "What he's doing is amazing."

"I know he's human because he said his legs hurt," said Mike Heffernan, 37, of Baltimore. "You won't believe this, but, at the end, he kicked [his speed] up a notch.

"I don't see how he does it on just four or five hours of sleep."

Yesterday's jaunt proved serendipitous. Two miles into the race, which had a police escort, Karnazes and his posse happened upon a house fire in the 1900 block of McCullough Street. Officers reported the blaze, which was extinguished.

"We were told that if we hadn't been running down that street, [firefighters] wouldn't have gotten there in time," Karnazes said.

At 15 miles, a pub offered the runners free beer. Karnazes declined, opting instead for his stash of peanut butter energy bars and lemon poppy seed cookies. His 6,000-calories- per-day diet includes wild salmon, fruit, beans and whole grains. Spinach was a staple until the E. coli outbreak required a change of greenery.

He does get cravings during his runs. Twice - in Anchorage, Alaska, and Chicago - Karnazes used his cell phone to order pizzas on the fly, then rolled them up to eat, burrito-style.

His stamina has already outlasted his shoes (six pairs to date). Come Sunday, Karnazes will have run 1,310 miles, or almost the distance from Baltimore to Houston.

An ultramarathoner at heart, he tuned up last spring by completing several 100-mile races. This series, dubbed the Endurance 50, is sponsored by The North Face.

During his seven weeks on the road, Karnazes has had a variety of running partners - including couples who have joined him to celebrate their anniversaries and a man who actually rescheduled his wedding so he could run with Karnazes in Hawaii.


End of the run

Dean Karnazes' final four marathon routes:

Today: Delaware Marathon (Wilmington)

Tomorrow: Philadelphia Marathon

Saturday: New Jersey Marathon (Long Branch)

Sunday: New York City Marathon

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