Behind Ultramarathon Man - Page 9
That same year, he ran 48 hours on a treadmill in the ABC-TV studio in New York, attempting the world record of 251 miles (he ran 211). The event was hell, he says, but provided an interesting moment when Senator Barack Obama, the presidential candidate, stopped by to say hello at the 42-hour mark. Moments before, says Karnazes, “I got off the treadmill because I was getting chafed, put a big goo of Vaseline in my hand, held my shorts down and did my thing.” All of a sudden, Secret Service guys ushered in Obama.
“Obama said, ‘I think what you’re doing is incredible, and I just want to shake your hand.’ I started reaching for his hand and went, ‘Oh!’ and gave him the presidential knuckle bump.”
The ABC event actually was his third major treadmill run that generated press attention and was derided as “gimmicky” by some ultrarunners.
Karnazes’ “treadathalons” began in 2004, when his friend Christopher Bergland of New York City, winner of three Triple Ironman competitions, asked if he would run at his side to help him break the 24-hour treadmill record. Bergland broke the record at 153 miles while Karnazes ran about 149. Karnazes said it was miserable and told his family, “I’m never doing anything like that again.”
But in 2007, the company Accelerade approached him about doing a treadmill run in Times Square. The treadmill would be suspended on the side of a building, and the event would be broadcast live.
Karnazes accepted, he says, “Because it was my job—it was how I fed my family. Yeah, I got a lot of shit for it, but a lot of people found it hugely inspirational.”
He fell short of breaking Berglund’s 24-hour record, running 130 miles. “It was the most brutal thing. Every time one of those plasma screens lit up, it was like a dose of radiation,” he said, laughing, “but it made me appreciate trail running a lot more.”
Running Across America
Before Karnazes’ Run Across America began last February, the Hawkeye team meticulously planned the route from Los Angeles to New York and coordinated with WABC-TV in New York to cover the event on morning TV for 75 days.
“At first I thought, why would I want to do this? I had never watched Live! With Regis and Kelly, and I can’t imagine anyone in my peer group watching morning TV,” Karnazes recalled. “Then I thought, the demographic watching this is probably the folks that need the most inspiration to get off the couch. If I’m going to do something that makes me feel best, which is helping others be the best they can be, then I have to use the media.”