The Fiji Times » Running from emptiness to fulfillment

From a young age, American ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes loved to run. Today, almost six decades later, he continues to do what he loves, pushing his body and mind beyond human limits. The story of Karnazes, who once ran 560 kilometers non-stop in 80 hours, is about the power of the human spirit.

Last week, the top athlete and New York Times best-selling author tried his hand at 100km on Namosi’s mountainous five as a sports diplomacy envoy under the US Embassy’s sports diplomacy program – Best Feet Forward.

According to literature about him, he would run home from school to save his mother the trouble of picking him up from kindergarten. He continued to run throughout his school years. After graduating, he worked as a PR manager for several multinational companies, earning substantial salaries.

He was living the American dream. But although he gained material wealth, he was unhappy when he celebrated his 30th birthday. “I’m an American and we have an idea that if you go to a good university, you should get a good degree, get a good job, make a lot of money and be successful and happy,” he told the Sunday Times.

“I did all those things and I was 30 years old. I had a lot of money, a company car and luxuries as you can imagine. But deep inside I was empty. I had no purpose in my life.”

One night, Karnazes was enjoying himself in a San Francisco bar and drinking the night away with friends when he met his fate.

“At midnight I told them I was going but they said ‘let’s have another round of tequila’ but I said I was going to run 30 miles to celebrate my 30th birthday and get my life back .”

Karnazes left that bar. He had no running gear and hadn’t run in 15 years. He took off my pants and ran into the night drunk in his underwear and made it 30 miles. He called his wife and said he was quitting his job and going to be a runner.

Three decades later, Karnazes remains true to the decision he made that night in San Francisco. He continues to this day and at 60 shows no sign of giving up.

Karnazes has twice completed his ultramarathons on all seven continents of the world. He’s run a marathon to the South Pole, he’s run across the Sahara, and in his lifetime he’s walked a total distance equivalent to running to the moon plus a few times.

This is an achievement that could only be achieved through great discipline and extremely hard work. Karnazes said that although life would have been easier if he had pursued his dream in the corporate world, his life as a runner has been challenging but also rewarding.

“I make a living from running and work every day. I struggle with difficulties, but I love it,” he said.

“I think if I had felt good, my life would not have been rich. Through the struggles I know that I can’t rest on my laurels and that I have to keep improving. I think struggle is the essence of a life well lived. Karnaze’s trip to Fiji last week was part of an effort to use sport to build bridges of friendship and cooperation and instill leadership in young people.

He was accompanied by Serah Berardo, the envoy of sports diplomacy. Berardo is a program manager at Teams Run DC, a Washington DC-based youth organization that focuses, among other things, on teaching local youth how to achieve personal goals through distance running, social-emotional skills, leadership and mentoring.

Sport is an effective tool to involve and empower strategic target groups such as young people and risk groups. Sport can also teach people valuable habits and important life skills.

Karnazes and Berardo worked with Fijian youth to share important values ​​such as leadership, fairness, discipline, gender equality, peacemaking, team unity and peacemaking.

In dealing with young people, Karnazes has learned to lead by example and to motivate them when the path becomes challenging. He had to talk people into quitting when they couldn’t walk anymore. “I motivate them depending on the age of the child. I can get them to see running as a game. I tell children of a certain age and development to embrace pain. When they are in pain they would like to sit or walk, but I say no, enjoy the pain.”

“I tell them: bring pain into yourself and overcome it, then you will have a sense of achievement.”

A healthy lifestyle and sensible diet are also a big part of Karnaze’s winning form. “You can’t tell anyone to eat healthy. These are hollow words. What I learned is that you have to set an example.

“You show how much you enjoy your body and you show how much you enjoy being healthy. I think that works better than saying you have to eat this and that.”

Karnaze’s most recent trip was his third. He first came to Tavarua Island on a surf trip in 2005 while training for a marathon.

He enjoyed every trip because Fijians were “always warm, wonderful, and fun-loving.”

“While I was there (Tavarua), I kept running. It took 15 minutes to go around the island for the men to watch me run and one day they wanted to join. “I said of course if you have shoes. They said: “We have no shoes”. They joined me and ran barefoot with me and I will never forget that experience.”

Looking ahead to the Namosi Marathon (which took place on Friday July 22), he said he was looking forward to running 100km and “meeting people along the way and sharing stories with them”.

Karnazes is a board member of an organization called Girls on The Run, which focuses on at-risk inner-city girls, such as those who come from broken families and are involved in prostitution and drugs. He teaches them camaraderie and achievement through running “Running is a difficult endeavor.

It’s intimidating and most people don’t enjoy it. But if you try to dig deep inside, you’ll get something after the second try.”

Karnazes was named one of TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People Alive”.

He has run 50 marathons in all 50 US states for 50 consecutive days. He ran through Death Valley in the middle of summer and he ran a marathon to the South Pole.

On ten separate occasions, he ran a 200-mile relay alone and rode alongside twelve teams.

His competitive achievements include winning the World’s Toughest Footrace, the Badwater Ultramarathon, and winning the 4 Deserts Challenge, races in the hottest, driest, windiest and coldest places on earth.

Karnazes is a frequent speaker and panelist at many running and sporting events around the world.

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