Book Review: 50/50, Dean Karnazes

By Dean Karnazes
New York Times Bestselling Author

I just finished reading Dean Karnazes' new book about his unbelievable feat of running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days, and if I were to use a simple phrase to describe the book, I would use "Runner's High". As I read the book, I felt like I was running with Dean, not just running as I usually do but flying through the air, gliding through the clouds, and feeling contentment with myself and with others. If you are looking for a book that will help you train for your first marathon, this is not that book. Dean does give many tips about running and racing, but those are secondary to his purpose for the Endurance 50 project and for this book. If you are looking for a book that will help you be motivated to run and to enjoy running for what it is, this is that book!

Dean originally thought he would drive to each state and run 26.2 miles, but his team decided the 26.2 mile runs should be official marathons. Eight of the marathons were live marathons that are held each year, while the remaining 42 marathons were staged but were still official races. The marathon directors of each race were involved in the planning of the marathons, police escorts were obtained, official routes were followed, official clocks were used, and official ceremonies were held at the finish of the races. Runners not connected with the Endurance 50 team were able to sign up for the marathons and to run with Dean. 50 official marathons in 50 states in 50 days! I still can't believe that he did that! Dean is a Greek, and that provides a good metaphor for the book. Greek mythology is full of interactions between the gods and mortals. Dean is of the gods. We are the mortals.

Dean starts in Chapter 1 with the Lewis & Clark Marathon at St. Charles, Missouri. After about 5 miles, a "lanky boy of twelve or thirteen" asked if he were Dean. Dean said, "Yes" and the boy said he was John. At the 10-mile mark, Dean and John passed John's mother who was shouting and holding up a sign saying "GO TEAM DEAN!" However, by 12 miles it was obvious that John, who had never gone that far, was in trouble. John struggled to the end of the race, and with only 100 yards left, he stopped and vomited. Dean described it this way.
"Are you okay?" I asked. "Do you want to sit down for a minute?"
"Go ahead. I'll walk," John managed as several concerned spectators gathered around him to provide support. Topher [Dean's running companion for that race] and I resumed running, and I silently wondered whether we had just committed some form of child abuse. Some inspiration I am, I thought.
Dean spent two hours after the race giving interviews and signing books. While doing this he looked up and saw John and his mother waiting to talk with him. Dean asked John if he finished the race. John, replied, "Piece of cake". Dean thought, "It's a funny thing. If you're truly born to run, erupting within sight of the finish line can be as likely to hook you on the sport as winning the race."

During the remainder of the book, Dean discusses the remaining 49 marathons. In doing this he doesn't discuss running very much, although he does give good tips in every chapter. He doesn't discuss strategy in very much depth. He doesn't discuss winning. He doesn't even say much about the marathons themselves. As he had done in Chapter 1, he discusses what he thinks is important about each race, the people in that race. The people running with him. The people in the Endurance 50 crew, The race directors that made the marathons possible. The school children who tracked his progress, many of whom came to the race to run the last mile with him. It's because of his focus on people that I treasure his book. There are many books that will teach me how to run a marathon. This book taught me to live a marathon!

50/50, Wellness Central, New York, Boston, 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0-446-58183-7
ISBN-10: 0-446-58183-6

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