Monday, July 29, 2013

Three Minute Interview with Dean Karnazes

On Saturday morning, I had a rare opportunity to run alongside one of the celebrities of the running world: Dean Karnazes! No big deal - just the athlete credited with being the world's most famous ultramarathon runner and super successful author.

Dean was in Milwaukee for a brief stop to gain support for his organization, Karno Kids. Karno Kids' challenge is to help slow the trend of obesity and inactivity in today's children. As a teacher, I can totally get behind this mission:

"A third of our youth in the US (25 million kids) are either overweight or obese.  The direct medical cost of treating obesity related diseases is staggering, but the quality of life costs are even higher.  Physical education programs are being eliminated from our schools at alarming rates, and open spaces where kids can explore the environment and enjoy the wonders of the great outdoors are disappearing.  Karno Kids is dedicated to reversing this unfortunate trend."


His stop at Performance Running Outfitters included a 4 Mile Fun Run, a small breakfast, a raffle and a photograph/autograph session. We started the morning with a brief explanation of his stop before heading out for the group run - sixty eager bodies running through Shorewood streets. Naturally, a pack of excited fans jogged slowly alongside Dean - wanting to hear his stories and suggestions while interjecting their own anecdotes. I stayed back a little bit and waited for an opportunity to make my move - because I wanted to chat too (which is really hard for me. I'm naturally pretty quiet and sometimes freak out in social settings.) Just past the halfway mark, I sidled up next to him and introduced myself as a teacher, coach and blogger - to which he said, "Oh wow, you're a saint! My mother was a teacher." 

Me and Dean Karnazes - also test running my awesome, new compression socks!
 I immediately felt at ease! We made some small talk about the trials and tribulations of teachers - particularly those working in the inner city. I referenced his organization and asked a series of questions about getting my particular group of students and athletes more interested in active lifestyles. This is something really important to me, and something I have written about in the past.

ME: "So, if you had one piece of advice to encourage my students to get active, what would you suggest?"

DK: "I would say that you have to make it fun and engaging. It also helps if you set a group goal. For instance - if you say "As a group, we're going to run 1,000 miles..." then everyone has an opportunity to contribute at their ability level and is accountable to the group." (Dean Karnazes understands differentiation!)

Of course, I agree 100%. When coaching, we try to make the experience fun and memorable, while instilling habits that can be maintained for a lifetime. I will definitely try to incorporate more group goals in the up-coming school year for both my students and my cross-country/track athletes.

Dean's advice was genuine and thoughtful. I don't know why I was surprised, but I was impressed by his personality in general. You could see an internal light and goodness shining through him. I imagine a huge part of that is the fact that he gets to live a life that he loves: traveling the world, challenging himself and promoting causes he believes in - whether its Karno Kids, Girls on the Run or the North Face Endurance Challenges. (Speaking of NORTH FACE Endurance Challenge, I won a free registration for the Wisconsin race in a raffle at the event. Guess I have another race to plan for!)

What a humbling and exciting morning.

How about you? Have you ever had the opportunity to meet one of your runner or non-runner idols? 


  1. Very awesome to get to run with Dean! I haven't met any running idols yet - maybe Kara Goucher will make a trip to MKE soon :)

  2. So glad you had a chance to talk with him!

  3. Thanks, ladies! It isn't often that we get to meet such inspirational people. He was so kind, too. I'm really glad I went. And Sun - I like your KG suggestion! Maybe Olallie can work on getting some high-powered athletes around (some day!)

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