Dean Karnazes, the man who never tires of running
Few people do not know Dean Karnazes, the world’s most famous 58-year-old ultramarathoner. His exploits include the 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 US states, crossing Antarctica without snowshoes, covering 560 km without stopping or running seven times the Badwater marathon (217 kilometers through Death Valley in California in extreme conditions. Come on, what any of us do any weekend …
When Dean Karnazes tried to figure out what the limit of what he could run without stopping was, it wasn’t his legs that gave out. What stopped the American ultramarathoner after three days and three nights of running was sleep.
“When I had been running more than 500 kilometers and 81 hours without stopping, I think I found my limit. I spent two nights without sleeping and it was fine, but on the third, I began to hallucinate, I fell asleep running and I understood that that was the functional limit that a human could reach, at least in me, “Karnazes told the BBC.
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It all started at 30
The day he turned 30, while he was in a bar celebrating it and when he had already had a couple of drinks, he decided that he needed to end his routine, marked to date by an important position in a pharmaceutical company. He left the bar and started running. Just like that.
Forty-eight kilometers later, in the middle of the night, it stopped. Tired, but happy. He had just discovered what he needed to be happy. Run, run and run, and less pharmaceuticals. As a young man he already liked it, but he left it as a young man to dedicate himself to windsurfing, mountain biking, snowboarding, and surfing. Years later he regained his passion for this sport and made it the center of his life. Good thing he realized in time.
What differentiates Dean Karnazes from most human beings is that for him there is no lactic or anaerobic threshold that limits him, as is the case with even the most gifted of humans, be they Olympians or popular.
In his entire life, he has never experienced muscle fatigue or cramps. For him, there is no physical limit, but a mental one.
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The secret of its fund
It was not until 2006 that Dean Karnazes knew that he was biologically different from other mortals. “They sent me to a center in Colorado,” Karnazes told him in an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian.
“They first did a test of my aerobic capacity and the results were similar to those of other highly trained athletes, nothing extraordinary.
Then they put me through a lactic threshold test. They said the test would last 15 minutes and they would stop. After an hour they stopped him and said they had never seen anything like it before. “
For most of us, there is a limit that we can no longer follow when we exercise.
This is because when the oxygen levels in the muscles drop, an imbalance begins to occur and the body has problems cleaning the lactic acid that is generated in the muscles, which is when they stop working and collapse occurs. This does not happen in the Karnazes body, which can control lactic acid production due to having more red blood cells than the average person.
Red blood cells are the ones that carry oxygen through chemical reactions driven by mitochondria in muscle cells.
These reactions are enhanced by the presence of a particular type of enzyme, which allows lactic acid to be transformed back into glucose, which is the main source of energy for muscles.
This process can be pushed to a limit with training, but in the case of Karnazes, it is believed that his ability is the product of a privileged genetic inheritance, endowed with the type of enzymes required and mitochondria with greater capacity. This means that your muscles always have the oxygen they need.
The ultramarathoner is also convinced that leading a healthy life, with good nutrition and low exposure to polluting toxins, has contributed to optimizing his genetic gift.