Lesson of the Day: If you get an opportunity to meet someone you admire, take advantage of it.
This post is about the man, the myth, the legend: Dean Karnazes. If you aren’t familiar with Dean and his accomplishments, here’s a small snapshot from his incredible running career:
- Ran 50 marathons in all 50 U.S. states in 50 consecutive days
- Ran 350 continuous miles in 80 hours
- Ran 3,000 miles across the United States in 75 days
- Ran a marathon to the South Pole
- Winner of multiple prestigious ultramarathon races
- Recognized as one of TIME magazine’s “Top 100 Most Influential People in the World”
- Hailed as one of the fittest men on the planet, according to Men’s Fitness
- New York Times bestselling author
The list goes on and on.
Tyler and I have been fans of Dean since we started running in 2014, so we jumped at the chance to see him during a special pre-race Q&A session for this year’s North Face Endurance Challenge in D.C. “I never thought I’d be starstruck by anyone, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be starstruck when we see Dean,” Tyler confided on the way there. “I know! I’ll probably be too nervous to make eye contact,” I replied, feeling anxious at the mere thought of it.
Now, remember the lesson of the day? If you get an opportunity to meet someone you admire, take advantage of it? We were at full attention throughout the Q&A, soaking in every piece of advice Dean shared. Then, when it came time for the audience to meet Dean and take pictures…we left.
There were plenty of excuses: We were tired. We didn’t want to bother him. We were nervous. What if he didn’t like us?! Can you imagine?
We instantly regretted leaving, and we needed to right our wrong. After all, this is a man who inspired us, whose advice we cherished, and whose words of wisdom had gotten us through some of our toughest training days.
The next morning Dean was scheduled to host a group run to help racers work out their jitters before the big event. There was no way we were going to miss it.
We woke to the steady sound of pouring rain, but there were adventures to be had, rain or shine. We hopped in the car and drove across town, chattering anxiously about whether the rain would stop, whether we’d make it on time, how many people would be there, what Dean would be like…
It was like magic. The rain stopped just minutes before our colorful crew of runners set off down the trail. Tyler and I kept a low profile in the middle of the pack, still too nervous to speak to anyone but each other. Nevertheless, after 15 minutes a cheerful man wearing a black visor and bright yellow rain jacket popped up beside us and introduced himself as Dean. We chatted about running, about training, about eating well, and about life. Within a matter of miles, it felt as though our idol had become our friend.
Honest moment: When you read through the list of Dean’s accomplishments above, did you find yourself wondering, “What kind of person crosses an entire country on foot and runs for days at a time without sleeping?”
Here’s your answer: It’s the kind of person who is generous, adventurous, and persistent. It’s the kind of person who has so much energy it seems as if he could run forever. It’s the kind of person who enthusiastically chats with strangers despite being an introvert, because he knows how much they appreciate it. It’s the kind of person who remembers names and faces, and makes you feel like a friend and peer regardless of your background or skill level.
Dean Karnazes is that kind of person, and we’ll always treasure the memory of meeting him. And if you ever have an opportunity to be someone else’s “Dean,” I hope you’ll remember this and recognize the impact you can have on that person’s life just by being kind.