Behind Ultramarathon Man - Page 6
Photo by Corey Rich
The book shot up the bestseller list—it was the No. 7 sports book worldwide that year—and made Karnazes a star. Suddenly, he was everywhere—on numerous magazine covers and TV shows such as Late Night with David Letterman and Today. Readers ate up the book’s comic details, such as his account of cramping to near rigor mortis after a race and projectile vomiting all over the steering wheel of his Lexus. And they gained motivation from his retelling of the times he almost gave up but didn’t, such as when he staggered around Mile 80 during his first Western States due to night blindness and passed out on the trail.
But it’s more than athleticism and good storytelling that propelled Karnazes’ popularity and gave rise to the de facto “Ultramarathon Man” brand, which promotes everything from mattresses to elliptical bicycles. For that, credit is due to his well-honed business and marketing skills, relationships with sponsors and ability to connect with fans.
Before the book was published, Karnazes developed a close partnership with his primary sponsor, The North Face. He started out as a shoe tester in the late 1990s and signed a contract in 2002 as a sponsored athlete. During that period, he developed a company, Good Health Natural Products, where he was president until he left in 2008 to become a full-time runner, writer and motivational speaker.
As he was garnering media acclaim for his book, Karnazes and The North Face were busy planning Karnazes’ first mega-staged event, one that would have a far-reaching legacy: “The Endurance 50,” aka 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days, which would kick off in September 2006.
A couple of months before Karnazes started the Endurance 50, he ran another Western States 100, won the Vermont 100 in 16:26 and completed another Badwater—all in a one-month period.