An Ultra-Inspiration

It’s fair to say that Dean Karnazes is a driven man. He regularly rises at 4am and runs a full marathon before heading in to work. He rarely misses a day’s running. Plus he still finds the time to fulfill his family responsibilities in the evenings. The man is an inspiration.

Having just read his compelling auto-biography Ultramarathon Man, I have found myself determined to get into shape. No excuses this time. If Karnazes can run several marathons per week, plus take part in several other outdoor sports, then I can at least commit to some serious excercise four times per week. And I have to push myself. No pain, no gain.

Karnazes started his obsession at a later age than most, having already established a good career and seemingly settled in wedded bliss. But it just didn’t seem enough for him. There had to be something more to life. It took the death of his sister to push him into running extreme distances.

Ultramarathons cover distances of at least 50km and sometimes stretch to several days of running, often in the most inhospitable conditions, such as in the heat of Death Valley at the Badwater event. From reading Ultramarathon Man, it seems that pushing your body to its limits has an addictive, almost spiritual effect. You feel at one with yourself and the world. In the case of Karnazes, it had a cathartic effect. After his loss, he wanted to live life to the fullest, as you never know when your number’s up.

His book is an incredible read. I squeezed it in between semesters and could hardly put it down, it was so engaging. I’m certainly no long distance runner, but what grabbed me was his steely determination to fulfill his goals, no matter what the physical cost, and his transference of this philosophy to his non-running life. He often runs, not just for himself, but for a worthy cause, using his exploits to raise awareness and funds to help sick children, in homage to his departed sister.

Karnazes puts the rest of us to shame with his exploits. How many times have I made an excuse to avoid hitting the gym? Too many. But no more. When I finished the book, I had renewed vigour. I would no longer accept only one or two exercise sessions per week. I wanted to get back into shape. I had to push myself.

And this philosophy should extend to other areas of my life as well. It’s important to ascertain goals and push for them. Nothing worth achieving is going to be easy. So I will endeavour to strive to try that little bit harder at university and in my personal relationships. If nothing else, at least I may get some more material for my dating disasters section!

One week in to this new doctrine and I hit the gym three days in a row. From now on it has to be four. And I will start running 5km again. Just as soon as the temperature hits double digits again…

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