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Dean Karnazes Endurance 50: More than about running 50 marathons

Runs end.  Running does not end.

Dean_5050 This was one of the major themes that runs through the book, 50/50: Secrets I learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days.

As Amy mentioned, we were privileged to receive advance copies of the book, so the opportunity to read the adventures was enriching and motivating beyond what I expected.  So we both want to share some of the ways the book impacted us the most.

So much humility.  A theme running throughout the book is Dean’s uncertainty about completing the Endurance 50.  While trained, experienced, and confident, he presents the day-to-day demands as real challenges to reaching his goal.  It might be easy to conclude that when you “set up” the logistics, travel itinerary, major sponsor financial support, publicity, etc., then a talented endurance athlete like Dean will unconditionally complete the 50/50/50.  Instead, he shares his occasional skepticism, low points and “what if’s,” showing his mortal nature.  Learning his doubts and concerns reveals a side we don’t typically see in a running legend.

Much more than 50 race reports.  Sure, each race is accounted for—marathon number, date, location, weather, and number of participants.  Yet each summary is not a standard race report.  He doesn’t dwell on his finish times or the highs or lows for each marathon.  Instead he weaves in the stories of each marathon’s unique challenges.  He speaks heroically of other runners’ courage, enthusiasm, and the ways they inspired him.  Can you believe it—the ways ordinary runners inspire Dean Karnazes!

Logistical Frenzy.  The Endurance 50 involved far more than running 50 marathons in 50 days. The logistics involved in executing the Endurance 50 are fascinating. His discussion of the planning—and occasional poor execution and overlooked details—provide a very vivid sense of the constant, every 24 ours, one-after-anotherness.  Dean credits his planners and support team with nothing short of miracles.

Lots of interior thinking.  Dean is a deeply introverted person, which explains why running extreme distances and times are a great match for his private personality.  Dean reflects on his friends, family, fellow runners, and deep meaning he finds in runners. It’s a rare glimpse into the heart and mind of perhaps the world’s most well-known marathoner and ultra-marathoner.

Lots of external focus.  Dean predicted early on that as an introvert, it would be a challenge to run 50 consecutive days with others tagging along. The daily pre-and post-marathon attention from runners, the media, and his support team created a constant buzz about him and around him that he was not accustomed to. Post race he stood in rain, wind, heat, and covered in persperation and sport drink to be on hand for others.  Despite his introversion, Dean went to great lengths to accommodate every runner interested in talking, shaking hands, taking pics, signing autographs, and listening to countless runners’ stories. 

Less about Dean; more about others.  It wasn’t unusual for Dean to shout out during a marathon his concern for others—their struggling condition, were they being provided enough fluids, and to make sure someone was looking out for them. I appreciated Dean’s devotion to others almost as much as his running.  When forced to choose between being interviewed by the press or waiting at the finish to greet and hug marathon finishers, Dean always chose the marathoners.

The entire Endurance 50 was born out of Dean’s ambitions.  And while the book could just as easily focus on his accomplishments, he enriches the experience by sharing a great deal about running.  Between race reports, he interjects useful knowledge about everything from shoes, nutrition, pacing, hydration, sleep, discomfort, recovery, the mental game, overcoming unimaginable odds, running in different climates.  It isn't a running how-to book, but you can't read it and not emerge a more informed runner.

By the end of the Endurance 50, I marvelled at Dean’s unextinguished passion for running.  There was no finish line swearing off such as, “Never again!”  Instead, with more conviction than ever, he contemplates what he learned, balancing running with his life and family, and where running will take him next.  And with more enthusiasm than most of us have at the end of a mid-week recovery run.

Whether you're a fitness runner or competitive runner.  A weekend 5k lover or an experienced marathoner, 50/50 has some wisdom, inspiration, and insight for every runner.  By the book's end, you will understand the theme Dean Karnazes reinforces countless times:

Runs end.  Running does not end.

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