A Plea to Dean Karnazes – Take a Break!

[Update: While the below is a sincere plea to Mr. Karnazes, the broader purpose of the post is to highlight […]

By on August 30, 2009 | Comments

[Update: While the below is a sincere plea to Mr. Karnazes, the broader purpose of the post is to highlight the issues of over running or over racing. Below my letter, I discuss one of my own episodes of over racing and invite other readers to discuss their own battles with the same.]

Dear Mr. Karnazes,
We’ve briefly met on the trails and in person, but it’s unlikely that you know who I am. That’s ok. Suffice to say I’m no 5k-running-fanboy, but I’m no hater either. I respect you as a runner and competitor and offer these words, because I’m not sure who else has or will – Please take some time off from running!

Dean Karnazes Canadian Death RaceIt is certainly none of my business to speculate as to why you’re in the state you’re in, so I won’t. However, I’ve watched you run at Western States, TNF’s Canadian Death Race, and the GORE-TEX TransRockies Run and something is not right. Sure, Western States was brutal and you had discrete reasons for dropping… but it wasn’t going well early. You toed the line at the Canadian Death Race, but weren’t in the thick of it at any point and you didn’t look well at 80k (photo right). I was sorry to learn that you cracked ribs at TRR (I believed I cracked some two years ago and it was a painful battle for months), but, again, the results show that you weren’t the runner I know you are during the two stages before you injured your rib.

Ok, I will speculate just a little, but only because I’m pretty certain you’d agree. Part of your problem is that you’re racing too much. Take some Did No Starts and restart your running life. I understand that it’s hard for a casual runner to make the decision not to start a race and can only imagine that it would be exponentially harder for someone who has made a name for himself through his perseverance and who makes a living off running to do the same. However, that should not stop you and here’s why.

No one will think less of you if you decide to bag your next however many races. Seriously, you’ve established your running credentials and they stand for themselves. If anything, continuing to race in the face of your current adversity could be a detriment to your reputation as a runner. You were a big man to drop when you needed to at Western States and even bigger man when you let Helen Cospolich tow you at TransRockies. Be an even bigger man and say enough is enough… for now. People will respect you for your discretion.

Anyway, I sincerely hope you seriously consider taking some time off from racing and maybe even some time entirely off from running. I’d love to see you roaring down some single track more like your former self come next spring.


Reflection for Others
Many of us have been in situations where we’ve over raced or over trained. I know I have… and I’ve not always responded accordingly. With that being the case, I’m left to ponder the many reasons why, when faced with such situations, we may be hesitant to take time off from racing or to back off from running when we need it. It all but certain that we’d be better runners for it, but it’s something that we love so much and don’t want to give up. We’ve invested time in training. In doing so, we’ve taken time away from other pursuits… which may make us feel accountable to those very people. Perhaps, we feel that others will think less of us for not having the “guts” to start a race, even if we should. As I suggest above, I really doubt that’s the case.

Goodness knows I’m one to talk about taking time off. Back in the fall of 2007, I raced three 50 milers in 15 days (Mountain Masochist, Stone Cat, and JFK) and while I PRed in the final race, I severely wrecked myself. I futilely started the Hellgate 100k just three weeks later and spectacularly DNFed. (brief report) Not surprisingly, I acknowledged that I was running on empty about a week later. Eventually, I yielded and took two weeks off from running. I probably should have taken more time off.

At various points I’ve taken long breaks off from racing. I probably should have taken them more often.

  • Anyone care to share when they’ve taken time off from running or racing due to something other than an injury?
  • Any thoughts on why it’s so hard to do?
Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.