In addition to being one hell of a runner, Dean is also the author of 50/50, Run! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss, and one of my all time favorite books about running, UltraMarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner. Obviously, there was no way I was missing a chance to run with this guy!
"If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl. Do what you have to do. Just keep moving forward and never, ever give up."
In typical Rabbits and Runs fashion, I got out of work late, rushed home to change into my running clothes, and floored it out to The North Face. In my haste, I realized (as I was parking my car) that I had left my Garmin at home. D'oh! I freaked out for about 30 seconds, but then I remembered that I had borrowed Mr. R&R's arm band so I could keep my phone on me during the event (hey...pictures or it didn't happen), so I quickly downloaded a pace/map app and made my way to the store. There were about 25 or so people milling about and chatting and then someone noticed a man, wearing a backpack, running toward us. It was Dean! He was much shorter than I expected him to be, but holy hell was he fit! (Duh, Mary...he's the UltraMarathon Man). He's also crazy young looking. He'll be 52 in a few weeks, but he looked to be in his mid thirties. Perhaps running 100+ miles at a crack is the Fountain of Youth?
While everyone was getting ready to run, he talked a little bit about what his next race was going to be, about how excited he was to be back in the Midwest, and asked for a show of hands of how many people in the group had ever run a marathon - there were quite a few. When he asked for a show of hands from people who'd run an ultra marathon, it was much smaller, but there were still quite a few. (I think this was his way of assessing how fast he would be running.)
After that, it was time to run! I hit "go" on my newly downloaded app and took off with the group. It was pretty easy going as we wound through a large parking lot and out onto a busy street. Once we crossed the street, we were on a pathway I'd forgotten existed. It was still near a busy road, but there was a nice, wide chunk of grass between us and the road, so the exhaust fumes weren't too bad. Dean was telling us that when he ran across America, the worst part of running through cities was getting stuck at traffic lights. Around half a mile in, I fell into step next to him and asked him what was the most interesting city he ran through on that adventure. He thought about it for a moment and then told me about a little town in New Mexico called Pie Town. Apparently the only major business in this town is a factory that makes organic pies and as Dean ran through, the employees lined the sides of the road like an aid station, but rather than holding out cups of water and Gatorade, they were holding out pies! I'm not one for solid food while running, but I can imagine that if I was running 40-50 miles a day for two and half months straight, pie would start to look pretty darn good! My next question was: Which one was your favorite? He said that by the time he got done running and was ready for pie, that his crew had eaten all of them!
After our chat about pie, I dropped back a little so someone else could talk to him for a while. The 1.5 mile turnaround came quickly and we headed back to The North Face. I was running near the front of the pack, and I could tell that Dean was running with the back of the pack. I honestly think he made a point to run with and talk to everyone there.
When we got back to The North Face, he graciously posed for pictures before heading inside for an autograph session.
When I got to the front of the line, he asked me how I got started running and when I told him that my husband had started running and I decided to give it a try, he thought that was pretty cool. The poster he autographed for me says:
Rabbits&Runs and Mr. R&R,
Long may you run, together.
I love it! I'm planning on framing the poster and putting it up in The Cave. I headed home tired, sweaty, and really happy. If he comes back next year, I'll be bringing my battered copy of UltraMarathon Man for him to sign.
"If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl. Do what you have to do. Just keep moving forward and never, ever give up." - Dean Karnazes