Friday, February 4, 2011

Run Across America

Yesterday, "Live! with Regis and Kelly" announced a new partnership with renowned ultra-marathon runner Dean Karnazes to run across America to "encourage and challenge Americans, young and old, to get active and even join him to run as he crosses the country." He'll start at Disneyland in Cali and finish in NYC, running about 40 to 50 miles a day for nearly 75 days. 

The whole shebang benefits Action for Healthy Kids - which is awesome - but I can't help but question the way this thing is set-up. If its purpose is to truly "inspire everyday people to make small steps toward big changes in their overall health and wellness," then is Dean really the best teacher? There is nothing "everyday" or "normal" about Dean. It seems you can't go anywhere without hearing Dean's story about how he first started running: sitting drunk in a bar on his 30th birthday, he decided his life was no longer fulfilling and he took off running for 30 miles (sobering up around mile 15). That is not the makings of a normal human being. He then proceeded to take on (for a hefty sum) all types of running challenges: running 48 hours straight on a treadmill (eww), running 350 miles without sleeping, running a marathon to the South Pole, and his 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days thing. 

By no means do I mean to belittle what Dean does. There's no question that he's a super human. But frankly, I've just never been his biggest fan. A lot of it has to do with his famed 50 marathon bit. You see, I had a college buddy, Sam Thompson, who completed 51 marathons (he decided to add on DC just for fun) in 50 states (plus the District) in 50 days - all for the purpose of raising awareness for Katrina victims. Sam traveled the country with the help of his now-wife, a few family members here and there, and any friends (I ran with him a wee little bit in Birmingham and Memphis... and then watched him eat an entire pig at the Bar-B-Q Shop afterwards) that wanted to join him along the way. 

Meanwhile, Dean had (in my opinion) an overly-commercialized build-up to his 50 in 50  in 50 start date (he literally talked it up for months before he ever took a single step) and even charged folks to run alongside him. When people asked Dean what he thought about Sam already finishing his marathon tour, Dean replied, "He obviously wants to scoop me." And I could be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure the only beneficiary of his trek was North Face (though I should also mention that Sam also picked up a North Face sponsorship along the way).

But even if I leave the past in the past (because I'm pretty sure Sam never cared about any of the above and always felt there was plenty of room for the both of them), I just think it's a little odd that, from what I can tell, folks will have to pay to run alongside Dean in Regis & Kelly's Run Across America. I understand that the money is benefiting a great cause, but wouldn't it be even cooler (and maybe make a bit more sense) if this was more of a Forrest Gump concept? If the purpose of this is to truly inspire everyday people, then I feel like the best way to do that would be to encourage anyone and everyone - regardless of whether or not they can pay to run with Dean. 

There is no doubt in my head - not to mention a library full of medical evidence - that what Dean is doing to his body is unhealthy and unnatural. Sanjay himself said (about Sam), ""He's not going to have enough time for recovery between these runs. So he's going to be damaging already significantly damaged joints. There's a really good chance that he will suffer irreversible damage." Though it is highly unlikely that most of the participants in the Run Across America intend to really become "the next Dean," I think it's important that Regis & Kelly also highlight the risks of what Dean is doing. After all, this is all supposed to encourage "overall health and wellness." 

With all of that said, I'm glad Reg & Kel are using their star power to rally the nation around fitness (though they didn't mention whether or not they'll actually be running. I'm guessing beanee-weenee-belly-button Kelly will. Doubtful about the Reg though). 

Dean's trek will be making its way through the District toward the end of his Run Across America, so despite my rant above, we just might join him along the way... if we can afford it, that is. 

Happy Trails,

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. I'm not sure where I stand on Dean and his gimmicks. I think it probably all comes down to the show's producers grabbing onto the easiest running "celeb" they could find and plugging him into it. Hopefully the program will accomplish the task of getting more kids off the coach and away from screen time!
    Oh,one final comment--there's no evidence to suggest that running damages joints--just a common misunderstanding on that one!