Working Up to Working Out

By Brian Grim

We all need inspiration sometimes, especially when it comes to working out. It can be all too easy to get stuck in a rut and lose enthusiasm for our routines, no matter how pumped up we were when we first started. I know that if my heart isn’t in it, then I’m not going to push myself to exercise when I’m tired or stressed or there’s a Deadliest Catch marathon on TV. In search of that inspiration, I decided to pick up a copy of the latest book by Dean Karnazes, Run! : 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss.

Dean Karnazes is an ultramarathon runner. Through his books, television appearances, and a knack for publicity, he has become probably the most famous name in the sport. Ultramarathons, in case you were wondering, are races that are longer than regular marathons. Because why would anyone want to stop at 26.2 miles when you can run 50 or even 100 miles, right?

Each of the 26.2 chapters of Run! tells a tale from one of Dean Karnazes’s many running and racing adventures. These typically involve amazing feats of endurance, such as going for a 197-mile run to celebrate his birthday or running from Australia’s Mt. Kosciusko to Sydney, a distance of about 350 miles. Some are stories of perseverance and triumph. Others are tales of pain and failure, including his numerous (and usually disastrous) attempts to complete the high-altitude Leadville Trail 100-mile Run.

Karnazes is drawn to extremes; he writes that moderation bores him. I can’t say that I completely identify with that sentiment, but he tells each story with a sort of manic glee and self-deprecating humor that becomes infectious.  He has a way of making suffering seem sublime, like it is a path to self-actualization. As he writes, “There’s magic in misery.” Misery makes a great story at least, and Run! is a fun read.

Dean Karnazes has been criticized by some ultramarathoners for being a better self-promoter than he is a runner. But he doesn’t claim to be one of the best runners.  He says that he is simply doing what he loves, taking on challenges not to be the fastest or the best, but just for the sake of doing them. His ability to communicate that love to others and to inspire ordinary people to challenge themselves is largely the reason for his success.

So, has this book inspired me? I don’t know for sure, but I did just sign up for my first half-marathon in November. Whether I succeed or fail miserably, I hope I’ll at least have a great story to tell.

Brian Grim is a Customer Service Specialist for the Glenwood Branch of Howard County Library System.

He started at the Savage Branch in 2006. Brian is a sporadic fitness enthusiast, an occasional cook, and a one-time musician.