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Sarah Lavender Smith Tuesday, 24 April 2012 08:54 TWEET COMMENTS 2

Behind Ultramarathon Man

How Dean Karnazes became the biggest celebrity in ultrarunning, and where he's running next

Dean Karnazes does not sit still. ...

Photo by Corey Rich

Dean Karnazes does not sit still. America’s most famous ultrarunner ran up to meet me in a park near his home in Ross, a quaint and affluent town north of San Francisco, and politely declined to sit at my side on a bench.

“That’s OK, I’m good,” he said with a big grin that cut across his long, square-jawed face. Then he started doing squats and calf stretches.

His smile revealed tiny, barely visible white hooks on a couple of teeth, which are part of his concealed orthodontia, odd for someone his age—he turned 49 last August. His wife, Julie, a dentist, installed them after his 75-day, nearly 3000-mile run from Los Angeles to New York dubbed the “Run Across America,” that he completed last spring.

Long stretches of his 40- to 50-mile daily runs were along a narrow highway shoulder with big rigs repeatedly zooming by and honking. “I was clenching my teeth and literally made them crooked, and my jaw started hurting,” he explained.  

Karnazes wore running shorts, a singlet emblazoned with his main sponsor, The North Face, and a backpack to carry stuff, since he literally runs errands around town. The stretching movements on his 5'9" frame made his veins pop and muscles flex in heightened definition under his tan, taught and seemingly hairless skin.


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