Dean Karnazes | The Road to Sparta (Episode 623)

Dean Karnazes (@DeanKarnazes) may be most famous for running fifty marathons in fifty states in fifty days, but he’s also a bestselling author who most recently published The Road to Sparta: Reliving the Ancient Battle and Epic Run That Inspired the World’s Greatest Footrace.

“We’re so comfortable, we’re miserable.” -Dean Karnazes

The Cheat Sheet:

  • What drives someone to leave their secure corporate job and run a hundred thousand miles (so far) in a lifetime — including three hundred and fifty nonstop miles through the desert?
  • Why does Dean Karnazes believe comfort is overrated?
  • How do modern marathons differ from the first one run by Pheidippides over two thousand years ago?
  • Explore what happens to your body when you push it past limits you once considered insurmountable.
  • Discover how to unlock your own inner strength to achieve extraordinary results.
  • And so much more…


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(Download Transcript Here)

Given the choice between a stable, comfortable life working for a company with benefits and a steady, hefty paycheck or regularly running hundreds of miles for the chance to win the occasional (but really shiny) belt buckle, which would win?

Dean Karnazes, author of The Road to Sparta: Reliving the Ancient Battle and Epic Run That Inspired the World’s Greatest Footrace, was more than happy to choose the latter. Famous for running fifty marathons in fifty states in fifty consecutive days, Dean gives us the rundown (sorry) of his journey from sad sack salaryman to extreme endurance athlete. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

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While he’d briefly been a runner in high school, it wasn’t until his thirtieth birthday on a night out with friends that Dean Karnazes decided on a unique way to celebrate the occasion: by beginning a thirty-mile run at the stroke of midnight. When his friends tried to talk him down from this proposed stunt as nothing more than drunken boasting, he said, “I am drunk, but I’m still going to do it!”

Without preparation of any kind or even proper running clothes (he stripped down to his boxers and discarded his pants in the alley behind the bar where he’d been drinking), he took off from San Francisco and made good on his promise. But this event was more than just a return to running for Dean — it was a turning point in an unsatisfying life that had become too comfortable.

“This had been percolating for a while,” says Dean. “I didn’t just that night say, ‘Oh, God, I hate my life.’ For the past three or four years I thought, ‘Here, I’ve got this great job, I’ve got a good degree; I’m supposed to be happy, right? I’m supposed to be content. I’ve got a fat paycheck…’ and it just wasn’t doing it for me. I wasn’t satisfied internally. So I thought, ‘Something’s wrong with this formula.’

“I hadn’t had any intensity in my life. What’s intense about a corporate job? It’s kind of cush. I wanted hardship. I wanted struggle and pain, and running thirty miles brought me these things.”

Dean’s alcoholic haze started to wane around Daly City, but didn’t let a minor hiccup like sobriety knock him off course. As this happened before cellphones were commonplace, he ran all the way to Half Moon Bay and called his wife from a seedy 7-11 adjacent payphone for a ride home as the sun was rising.

While it still took a few years for Dean to give up his corporate job and its benefits for the sake of the family he was building, his wife was supportive when the time arrived.

“I wonder what took you so long?” she said.

It’s probably safe to say most of us haven’t experienced what it’s like to run a marathon, let alone the hundred miles at a time Dean now runs regularly. So what does he get out of it?

“I never felt like I was a whole person until I was out running,” says Dean, “especially running long distances. It’s hard to describe to a non-runner; running a hundred miles puts you somewhere else. It takes you out of the everyday, normal life. To me, that sort of rawness, that kind of primordial experience, that’s when I’ve felt most alive.

“I thought, there’s a magic there, but the magic has got to pay the bills too! There’s the practicality of how do you feed your family now? So I was concerned about that as well. How are you going to make a living doing this? Even if you win this race, you get a belt buckle!”

Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm in its entirety to learn more about how Dean went on to make a successful career out of running ridiculous distances, why a lot of us growing up in western culture are comfortable but deeply unhappy, how Dean keeps challenging himself after running the extremes of Antarctica and Death Valley and all points between, the differences between running a marathon today and two thousand years ago, how many hours of sleep Dean needs to function, how many miles Dean runs per week even when he’s not training, how Dean copes with certain biological needs on especially long runs, and lots more.


If you enjoyed this session with Dean Karnazes, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:

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AJ Harbinger - author of 1176 posts on The Art of Charm

AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality. Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.

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