The Story of Dean Karnazes, the Ultramarathon Man

Posted on November 22, 2022

You're probably selling yourself short. Most people do. Dean Karnazes did.

On his 30th birthday, Karnazes was slobbering drunk on beer and tequila shots. After midnight, he slipped out a back door of the bar and walked home, thinking this was not the life he had imagined.

He found an old pair of sneakers on his back porch, stripped to a t-shirt and underwear, then started running for the first time in years. He sobered up 15 miles south at 4am, feeling ridiculous but smiling and happy. So, he just kept running.

By sunup, he had covered 30 miles and was stunned by the realization that he had vast untapped reservoirs inside. It was like a religious conversion—he was "born again" as a long-distance runner.

That was August 1992. Since then, Dean Karnazes has challenged almost all endurance records:

  • He covered 350 miles without sleeping in a little more than three days.
  • He finished second in the first and only marathon to the South Pole . . . in -40 degrees.
  • He ran 135 miles nonstop across Death Valley in 120-degree heat.
  • He ran 3,000 miles across the US, Disneyland to New York City, in 75 days.
  • He ran 50 marathons, in 50 states, in 50 days, finishing the final one—the New York City Marathon . . . in three hours and 30 seconds.

Now known as the Ultramarathon Man, Karnazes says, "The human body has limitations. The human spirit is boundless. Your mind, in other words, is your most important muscle."

Dean Karnazes learned the secret to running a marathon is to train your mind as hard as you train your body.

In Dallas, Texas, there is a highly sought-after marathon trainer who states that there’s one difference between those who finish a race and those who fail: 8 inches. Clients look at him with bewilderment. He then takes his index fingers and taps one on each temple and says, “It’s the 8 inches between your ears. That’s the secret to running a marathon.”

That’s what it is all about, managing your mind. You have to train your mind as hard as your train your body.

Performance begins inside your brain.

Your thinking designs your doing. Results are shaped by your thought patterns, mindset, and mood . . . by how you frame things and how you feel about yourself.

Believe in yourself! Suspend disbelief! Act as if your success is for certain.

Instead of holding back because you don’t have hard proof that you can make a quantum leap, see if you end up with evidence proving you can’t. Just make the jump—act as if your success is guaranteed—and then see which set of ideas you should believe in.

For right now, just suspend disbelief. You don’t have to be convinced that you can succeed in making a quantum leap, but don’t keep on believing those old ideas you’ve been carrying around about your personal limits. If it will make it easier, hold off for a while on believing anything.

Just act like you have complete faith. Merely do what you’d do if you knew you were going to succeed. Behave like you have that total conviction.

Doubt is what does the most damage. So don’t give it any mental space. Proceed boldly as if it is completely inconceivable that you will experience anything other than a successful quantum leap.

Reach for the vast reservoirs you carry inside.

You'll maximize your odds of making a quantum leap with the Quantum Leap Launch Kit


Price Pritchett is one of the foremost experts on fast-growth strategies and breakthrough performance. His firm—PRITCHETT, LP—is recognized worldwide for its thought leadership on mergers, corporate culture, change management, and accelerated achievement. These writings define the behaviors and individual mindset underlying fast growth and innovation.


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