Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Get the popcorn out for Karnazes

I don't know how well you all remember those hazy days of 2001? For me they were certainly more than a little hazy, for reasons I am disappointed to remember every day..... to a degree, but then I remember my modern day sobriety and think at least I've turned things around in that way. However, this is not about me, but about a gang of young men from Saaaaarf Lanhdan who went by the name, collectively, of So Solid Crew. There was a song of theirs entitled 21 Seconds that seemed to be everywhere for a while in 2001. Why 21 seconds? Well apparently that was the time in the song that every different MC had to 'spit his lyrics.' For those not well versed in rap slang, spitting your lyrics is merely a term that reflects the intensity of their delivery rather than literal salivation on the microphone....although I expect some of that also happens accidentally.

Anyway, the So Solid Crew attracted a little bit of controversy, and they had a single a little later on entitled 'Haters.' I don't remember it quite so well, but the general tone of the track was that plenty of people had been hating on the Crew, when all they did was "Bring garage through from the underground straight to you." So perhaps this refers to the fact that as soon as So Solid Crew became popular all of a sudden it wasn't cool to like them, and they must have 'sold out' on purpose to make lots of money, which isn't allowed if you're an MC clearly. Everyone has to make a living in this world somehow or another, and there are far more damaging ways than as a rapper. In fact a lot of the guys in So Solid Crew had previously allegedly been part of gangs, and the music offered them a way out, although sadly a few of the members went to jail for offences that took place after they had become successful. Anyway, the point is that people were giving So Solid Crew flak just for succeeding at what they did and not being ashamed of it.

This brings us onto Dean Karnazes. Now, I wouldn't be comparing Dean with a member of So Solid Crew culturally for a second, but with reference to the haters. Yes, Karnazes really does cop a lot of flak. To someone observing from the outside it may appear that Karnazes is doing nothing but running a long way and inspiring others to do the same, but many people are SLAPPING him down....they're SLAPPING him down!!! (imagine someone slapping the thighs on their trousers with the palms of their hands for added effect each time I say 'slapping')

So what are the objections to Dean? Is it to do with bringing ultras through from the underground straight to you? Well, it was via the book 'Ultramarathon Man', which he wrote about his experiences of stumbling into the ultra running scene almost by accident after giving up running during his early adulthood but then being drunk in a bar on his 30th birthday and thinking there must be more to life, so going out to run 30 miles that night, then when he recovered building up more sensibly and before too long running the Western States 100 miler in a very respectable time, then all that had happened up until the point he finished the book, including a very entertaining and frank account of how he DNF'd at Badwater the first time he attempted it (he has now finished I think 10 times, including a victory in 2004.) I remember watching a talk that Talk Ulta host Ian Corless did in which he explained that it was reading 'Ultramarathon Man' that first made him aware of ultra running properly and inspired him to check it out. I could say the same of 'Born to Run', and it seems that many who have started running ultras in recent years were first inspired by one of these books. Not all, possibly not even most, but definitely many. Now, a lot of people have taken issue with 'Ultramarathon Man' because they feel Dean pretends to be a better runner than he is, and invents reasons that he won races, such as being the only guy to run a marathon at the south pole in running shoes rather than snow boots (or something like that) and others that I can't even remember. People also sometimes take issue with the way he seems to brag, and admittedly things like (not direct quote) "At the finish line of Western States everyone was just lying around looking ruined, but not me. I drove home and went windsurfing" can seem a bit "Oh YEAHHHH, I'm the MAN!!!" but he also admits a number of times that he's not the fastest ultra runner, and when he won Badwater he didn't pretend for a minute that it was always on the cards, and said he "Survived fastest" rather than "Blew everyone away" or anything like that.

A third issue people have with him is that it's apparently all about, I won't get into a way I can relate to taking flak for that, but when all is said and done, Dean does have a family and has bills to pay and all manner of things to fork out for, as do we all, and his books are a way he makes money for these things. As mentioned earlier, we all have to make a living. What's more, along with making money for himself, Karnazes definitely has inspired a lot of people to get into running, or to attempt to run further than they ever thought they could, and inspired people to live healthier lifestyles. What can be wrong with that? During his run across America he visited numerous schools and did a short run with the kids. I don't know about you, but I think if someone like Dean had come into my Primary School I would have thought "Wow, that guy is COOL!! I want to give this running thing a try!" and would have been inspired to grow up to be fit and healthy and not in a haze of booze, fags and narcotics. I'm not saying I definitely would not have fallen into these things anyway, as life can be pretty tough, but in terms of living a healthy lifestyle I'd say Dean is definitely a positive role model, and I'd definitely rather have someone like him visiting schools and telling the children that running is a good idea than a wild rock star visiting schools and telling the children that boozing, promiscuity and drugs are things to aspire to.

I could go on for hours, but overall the point of this is not to tell anyone they're not entitled to their opinion, but merely to highlight the reasons I have no problem with Dean Karnazes, and actually think he's great. Besides, his account of his first Western States in Ultramarathon Man is still one of the best race reports I think I've ever read by anyone ever. If anyone's not read Neil Brie's account of his Viking Way Ultra race you should also cast your eye over it, because I think it sums up the camaraderie of ultras in a way that few other reports I've ever read have.

Anyway, the point is that some run ultras with the minimum of fuss and the minimum of equipment, some run ultras and blog their socks off about it, and list every bit of kit they used in the process. No matter which approach is taken, both of these kinds of people did the same thing; ran a long way. No matter how it's done I find it equally inspiring. That's it.

The 'Why Won't They Just Leave Dean Alone?' picture ; ) ........

My book 'Everything Will Work Out in the Long Run', about how ultra running helped me to put the hazy days of 2001 behind me after I nearly ruined my long term health and sanity, is available via the following link......
There are some reviews and a full synopsis via the link. Here's a couple of short extracts: -
""If she threw that gel 99 more times I’m fairly certain it would bounce off my hand and fly into the face of a passing policeman, but on that day I perhaps subconsciously remembered how my dad used to catch those eggs and barely breaking stride I made a basket with my hands and clasped them round the gel in mid-air. I then sprinted ahead, calling “Hey, mate in the green!” The runner turned round looking a little annoyed but then as I handed the gel to him he looked at me with a mixture of gratitude and disbelief and gave genuine thanks."
""I was a bit of a control freak as the band leader, perhaps to compensate for my lack of control over the football team, it being obvious to everyone that another Dave was a far better player. Having the name Dave means that nearly every time I am out in public I will hear someone call my name but it won’t be my attention they’re trying to get. Most people are called Dave really. Glastonbury festival in the late 90s/early 2000s was a nightmare. “Dave! Dave!! Dave!!!” but it was never for me, and when it was I didn’t bother looking round. I think I lost a few friends at those festivals."


  1. Dean regularly interacts with (and encourages) people in his Twitter feed, and I have seen him online at school visits. Seems like a humble guy who has an incredible gift that he wants to share. Signed - A Fan

  2. I'm a fan. I've listened to podcasts and read his books and I really like him! Haters gonna hate...