The ultramarathon man Dean Karnazes knows a thing or two about long-distance running. After all, he’s got more ultras under his belt than he can count and famously ran 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states in 2006. But he’s adding another achievement at Sunday’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon—two marathons back-to-back.
He’ll start with all the other runners at 7:30 a.m., but when he finishes about three-and-a-half hours later, he’ll just keep going for another lap. Volkswagen, the official automotive sponsor of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, approached him about trying the unique double.
“The folks from Volkswagen contacted me an told me about this great new vehicle, and I was thinking, OK, I’ve heard this one before,” he says. “But then they started telling me what it’s about, about the clean-burning diesel technology that gets 70 miles to the gallon, and I thought, maybe I could get behind this thing.
“They told me it could go twice as far as a normal vehicle on a tank of gas, and we heard you go twice as far as a normal runner,” Karnazes said. “So guess what we want to do?”
They didn’t have to twist his arm very far to convince him to try and run two loops of the marathon course, which amounts to a 52.4 mile race.
“I’m thinking, depending on the weather, it should take between eight and nine hours,” he says. “The last time I did Chicago was part of 50 in a row, and I think I ran 3:30. So maybe I’ll run 3:30 to 3:45 on the first loop. And then have some fun on the second loop. Stop and get some pizza, you know, just see what happens.”
A double marathon is small potatoes compared to Karnazes’ next endeavor, which is still in the planning stages.
“It sounds crazy, but in 2012 I want to embark on a global marathon expedition that involves running a marathon in every country in the world within a one year time period. Right now there’s over 200 countries in the world. And that would include Afghanistan, North Korea, and places that are tough to get into.”
The toughest part of such a trip may just be getting all the countries to get with the program.
“It will be five years in the planning,” he says. “The logistics behind it will be as interesting as the running. I’m working with the state department and trying to get permits.”
But for this year, he’s happy to be spending his time in Chicago with the rest of the runners on a marathon Sunday. “I’m really hoping to run into a lot of people on that second lap and have a good time,” he says. “And share some pizza.”