Now this is an amazing race! Superstar runner Dean Karnazes is taking a cross-country sprint from Disneyland to New York City, with every blistered step being captured by the Live! With Regis and Kelly cameras. Karnazes, who is logging 40-50 miles per day, will end his 75-day run by arriving at the Live! studio mid-May. Along the way, he'll participate in several "Run with Dean" 5K events — benefitting the anti-obesity charity Action for Healthy Kids — in which local runners can join the marathon man for part of his trek. (For more info on the 5K runs, go to tiny.cc/rundean). TV Guide Magazine spoke with Karnazes about his hopes, his fears and his questionable sanity — you won't believe what he plans to do after conquering America!
TV Guide Magazine: You're famous for meeting wild physical challenges. Is this the big one for you?
Karnazes: This is the pinnacle of outrageous challenges and people have certainly suggested I'm missing a screw or two. Could I legitimately deny it? Pardon the bad pun, but I wouldn't have a leg to stand on. I've always dreamed of doing a cross-country run. I did it halfway in 2006. I ran from New York City to St Louis, Missouri. I think a lot of people can relate to the idea of just checking out of life and spending a few months on the road.
TV Guide Magazine: Yeah, but most people fantasize about doing it in a car.
Karnazes: [Laughs] Hey. I'm more than happy to be the crash-test dummy and let millions live vicariously through me. When [Live! exec producer] Michael Gelman came up with the idea, I decided to drop everything and do it. And, really, when is there ever going to be a better time? Five years from now?
TV Guide Magazine: Ever push yourself too far?
Karnazes: I've found where my edge is, and that's only by going over the edge. It's only by failure and near catastrophe that I've learned how far I can go.
TV Guide Magazine: Are you at all worried about this run?
Karnazes: I'm incredibly nervous and anxiety-ridden about this endeavor, as I probably should be. I think I'd be more concerned if I wasn't nervous. The stakes are high. But I couldn't say no. [Laughs] Gelman is a bad name in my household. Anytime they're bottom fishing [at Live!] they call me. They're, like, "Jeez, we can't get anybody to do this crazy stunt. Hey, let's get Dean!" But it's all for a good cause. I'm so thrilled to have other runners join me along the way, and I'm also getting an opportunity to stop and speak about childhood obesity at various schools. That's the crux of why I'm doing this — to get out the word that we really need to take a look at our incredible inactivity and the obesity-related diseases that are crippling our country and our health care system. We really need to turn this situation around. Not only are the medical costs insane with this obesity epidemic, but there's an even greater toll on our quality of life. So many kids today are 20, 30, 40 pounds overweight. Their health and self-esteem is horribly impacted, and it really saddens me. Anything I can do to motivate and inspire kids. I'm game to do it!
TV Guide Magazine: Can you relate to bad eating choices in any way? Do you ever just pig out?
Karnazes: Of course. They say you should listen to your body, but if I listened to my body right now I'd be sitting at home on the couch having beer and a pizza.
TV Guide Magazine: You've made this run extra tricky by promising to be in certain cities on certain dates for these 5K runs. What happens if you're slowed down by bad weather?
Karnazes: There's not a lot of cushion built into the schedule, so I'm hoping to bank some days when the weather is good. It would have been more ideal to start this run later in the year — the transition from spring to summer would have been better, but I have to finish in May because that's the important time for the TV ratings. [Laughs] But at least I'm headed in the right direction this time. When I ran from New York to St. Louis, I was pretty much running into a headwind!
TV Guide Magazine: So what's next after this? A run around the world?
Karnazes: Actually, I've already run around the world — technically speaking.
TV Guide Magazine: How so?
Karnazes: I once ran a marathon down at the South Pole where there is literally a pole with a stainless steel orb around it. If you run around that pole you are literally circumnavigating the planet.
TV Guide Magazine: Cheater!
Karnazes: [Laughs] Plus, I stripped down and did it naked. You have to be very careful not to let any of your appendages touch the ice or the orb. Let me tell ya, it was a very fast run around the world!
TV Guide Magazine: Didn't the first Olympic runners do it naked, too?
Karnazes: Exactly. I've brought the sport full circle, baby!
TV Guide Magazine: Let's get back to the future. How do you top this?
Karnazes: Don't tell Gelman this but I intend to run a marathon in every single country of the world, all in a year. The U.N. right now recognizes 204 independent countries, which includes Libya, North Korea, Afghanistan. I want to run them all. Running is somewhat simple and primitive but it's a commonality we share across humanity. These days there is too much that splits us apart in this world. With running I find there's a great brotherhood and sisterhood out there. I've run on all seven continents now — twice — and wherever I set up my runs people come out and join me. Even if we don't speak the same language, we understand and appreciate each other. We are united. It's the coolest thing.