BY: FRAZIER MOORE
NEW YORK – Friday morning, Dean Karnazes will strike out for New York from his native California. His plan: to run the whole route.
His coast-to-coast pilgrimage calls for Karnazes to be on the run, rain or shine, as much as 14 hours daily covering an average of 50 miles to 60 miles.
He’ll be under the watchful eye of “Live! With Regis and Kelly,” which invited him to make this odyssey and will track his progress every step of the way. After nearly 3,000 miles on the road, he will arrive around May 11 in Manhattan, where he will cross the finish line at the “Live!” studio to be welcomed on the air by co-hosts Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa.
“This is without a doubt the most intense endeavor I’ve ever undertaken,” said the 48-year-old Karnazes, whose list of endurance derring-do includes this breathtaking achievement: 50 marathons in 50 days in all 50 states. (Whereupon, after completing the last one, the New York City Marathon, he headed back toward his San Francisco home, running 1,300 miles until, feeling homesick for his wife and two children, he hopped a flight from Missouri.)
Karnazes will leave Disneyland during Friday’s “Live!” telecast (check local listings for this syndicated show), with Ripa and some 200 other well-wishers seeing him off from the Magic Kingdom.
Then his road trip shifts into overdrive.
“You’d think all he needs is a station wagon to follow him with a bunch of protein bars,” said “Live!” executive producer Michael Gelman. “It’s really a lot bigger than that.”
The itinerary includes Arizona and New Mexico, then up to the heartland traversing Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, then southeast to the nation’s capital, then New York-bound. Mostly sticking to two- or four-lane highways, he will pass through 17 states and the District of Columbia.
To do it, he’ll be clad in a North Face shoe called the Sentinel Boa that features a tightening system free of pesky laces. He expects to pound through as many as 12 pairs.
Meanwhile, along for the ride will be a dozen-member entourage in two accompanying tour buses — one for Karnazes’ trainer and support team as well as his own home base, the other carrying the production crew that will transmit his travels to the world.
“Almost every day we’re going to see at least some of Dean,” said Gelman. “Then, once a week, usually Fridays, we’ll do a full sort of recap.”
The show will pack a variety of high-tech gear to power the TV remotes and social media — including a blog Karnazes will be posting.
“We plan to document this entire journey,” said Gelman. “We’re a live show, and this is going to be a live, real-time drama. We’re really going to cover it.”
“Live!” first collaborated with Karnazes a couple of years ago when he ran for 48 hours on a treadmill in the show’s studio.
Not only a mega-marathoner, he’s also a fitness advocate and author whose latest book, “Run! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss,” will be out next week.
“I’m not saying to people, ‘Hey, you got to go run two marathons a day,'” he explained from his home recently. “But maybe you can walk around the block after years of inactivity. You can begin to change your ways. I want my message something anyone can relate to: putting one foot in front of the other and doing the best you can.”
Besides his “Live!” updates and other media appearances en route, Karnazes will be hosting a series of brief stopovers: a dozen “Run With Dean” events for charity, benefiting Action for Healthy Kids, a nonprofit and volunteer organization that fights childhood obesity and undernourishment. The first of these 5K fun runs is scheduled for Riverside, Calif., on Saturday.
Last week in Dallas, the expedition’s two tour buses were being readied before joining him at Disneyland.
“I’m literally in Dean’s bus, stocking it with his food and liquids,” said Amanda Forgason Dempsey in an interview from Hawkeye, the marketing agency handling the logistics of this cross-country operation.
Dempsey, a Hawkeye managing director, said the bus would initially be packed with a 12-day supply of nonperishables. Retail sources of fresh and organic provisions (including Karnazes’ requisite 20 bananas per day, part of his daily intake of as much as 10,000 calories) are already pinpointed along the route.
Another vital part of the planning: arranging police security escorts in every locality and acquiring the proper permits for this high-profile caravan.
“We contacted over 97 counties that he will cross through, to let them know that he’s coming,” Dempsey said.
But every plan, however thorough, is subject to change. There’s the chance of getting slammed by the weather — though Karnazes, who has run in both Antarctica and the Sahara desert, is no stranger to extreme conditions. There’s also the chance of injury, or, far more likely, blisters (which Karnazes hastily repairs with Krazy Glue).
And maybe he’ll get antsy in the middle of the night.
“I told my crew that sometimes I get up at 2 in the morning, and if I can’t sleep, I’m going to set out. They said, ‘Well, wake us up.'”
“I think uncertainty is part of the appeal,” he declared. “I never feel certainty when I start one of these endeavors, and I feel doubts along the way. Let’s face it, the stakes are high this time. There are a lot of eyeballs following this thing. I’ve kind of put myself in a scary situation and I’ve never felt more intimidated.”
“But I’ve never felt a tingle like this,” he added vigorously. “Let’s get out there!”
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