On Tuesday, I met Dean. It was kind of cool.
Some folks at my company won a competition tied to the Silicon Valley Marathon. The prize was Dean Karnazes for a couple hours. There were about 15 of us just hanging out at a juice bar asking Dean questions. In fact, one fellow athlete wandered in and said, “I had no idea you’d be here today. But here you are, hanging in the juice bar. Very cool.”
If you aren’t familiar with Dean, he is an extreme athlete. He does crazy things like run 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states. He has won the Badwater 135-ultramarathon across Death Valley. He has run The Relay 200-mile race, which is typically completed by teams of 12, solo. He does other things too, like climb Half Dome in Yosemite and ride his mountain bike for 24-hours straight.
Dean is also a best-selling author and PR machine. I have read his first book, Ultra Marathon Man. His mug has graced the cover of many a magazine, and he has been on the David Letterman Show, CNN, The Today Show, etc. He, like Oprah, is a brand. Just look at his website and you get the idea.
There are many extreme athletes, but none as public with their accomplishments as Dean Karnazes. So when I met him, I did it with skepticism. I had an image in my mind of a very egocentric human being. Again, I reference his website. (For the record, I have the same opinion of Oprah. What kind of ego do you have to have to put your picture on the cover of every magazine?!) In fact, the real reason I went to the meet-and-greet is my running partner organized the whole affair and I wanted to be supportive.
Well, well, if life doesn’t pleasantly surprise you once in a while! Not an ounce of ego in the 45 minutes we spent with Dean. He was soft-spoken and humble. When he talked about his accomplishments, it was only in answering our questions, and he did so with the wide-eyed excitement of a kid, not the boldness of an arrogant athlete. We asked about one of his multi-day, multi-stage events, and his answer was about how much he learned from the other athletes, especially some soldiers who taught him to carry olive oil for calories. I don’t think he ever told us how he did in that event.
I was charmed and honored to be in his presence. He spoke not so much of his miles or victories, but of all the things “normal” running people speak about. He talked about his kids. He told us the original reason he did the 50 marathons was for a family vacation, in which he decided “to run a little along the way.” He talked about turning his passion into his profession, something we all dream of. He talked about the difficulties of business travel, and how he ran 48-hours straight on a treadmill and then jumped on a plane to get to a book signing the next day. After the chatting, he ran with our group. Although I could not participate in the run, my friend Kristin said he was lovely and just hung with the pack.
So it seems that Dean is one of the greatest athletes in the world, and a very nice man. He works really hard at what he does, defies perceived human limitations daily, and has managed to turn it into a profitable business. Nothing wrong with that. I am glad I met him.
Thanks Dean, for coming to hang with us at the juice bar.