Dean “Ultramarathon Man” Karnazes: “Greece Enters Your Blood and Your Soul”

Dean Karnazes and ActiveMedia Group’s new project, Greek Running Tours, brings visitors to Greece to run, see the sights, eat, and run some more.


Some heard of him for the first time in 2007. That was the year when TIME Magazine placed the Greek-American runner among the 100 most influential people in the world. The year before, he completed one of the many mindboggling challenges of his career: running 50 marathons, in all 50 US states, in 50 consecutive days. He was already quite famous, of course. Already in 2002, he became one of the few athletes to run a marathon to the South Pole; in 2004, he won the Badwater Ultramarathon running 217 kilometers across Death Valley in 49°C weather; and in 2005, he ran 560 kilometers in 80 hours and 44 minutes without sleep. He is, by many people’s understanding of the word, superhuman. So what is he up to now?

His latest project is Greek Running Tours, a new company offering unique running vacations in various locations around Greece. Together with sports tourism and wellness agency ActiveMedia Group, Dean (Constantinos) Karnazes has planned excursions that combine daily runs along his favorite routes with stays at high-end hotels, gastronomy events, and cultural experiences. The next tour, for example, is an eight-day running tour on Crete, featuring up to half-marathon runs along the coast, over mountains, and through forests and villages, as well as activities like olive oil tasting, a visit to the Knossos Place, and traditional meals. There’s also a 3 to 5-kilometer walking alternative at each location, so runners can bring loved ones along.

There’s no lack of reasons why sports tourism is gaining ground in Greece; the mild climate, the diverse terrain, and the stories of athletics in ancient Greece are all compelling factors. According to Karnazes, who is also an ambassador for the annual Navarino Challenge in Messinia and always passionate in everything that he does, there are other reasons too:

We already know that Greece is one of the places where you love to run, and about your heritage of course, but could you tell us why Greece is the perfect place for a “running holiday”?

Greece is the birthplace of both the Olympics and the Marathon. The history and lore of Greece are unprecedented. Then there is the sheer beauty of Greece, and the magnificent food… With Greek Running Tours, we will take people to places few tourists get the opportunity to see or visit.

 

You’ve completed some mind-blowing challenges throughout your career. What do you get out of running in Greece?

Running in Greece brings the senses to life! The vibrancy of light here is different than anyplace I’ve traveled; it’s distinctive to this magical region of the world. You experience the land more intimately on foot and it leaves you feeling enlivened and energized.

Will you be taking part in the tours? If so, what are you looking forward to?

Yes! I will be personally taking part in the tours, at least for our first year. My hope is that we will eventually have many tours all over Greece. What I’m most looking forward to is seeing the joy and delight in our guest’s eyes when they experience our tours.

What is the number one thing they will remember from the vacation?

Our guests will be forever changed by the experience. Greece is something that enters your blood and your soul, and your life remains richer from that moment forward.

 

Sports tourism is growing in Greece, along with other types of alternative tourism, like ecotourism and wellness tourism. Is Greece a good place to pick up some healthy habits?

Greek Running Tours is at the forefront of this movement. We combine sightseeing with physical activity, gastronomy, history, and wellness. We offer both a daily running route and a walking route, so we encourage everyone to get more active.

Anything you’ve noted during your years supporting the Navarino Challenge that inspired you to continue to promote running in Greece?

In the 11 years I have been actively visiting Greece for Navarino Challenge I have noticed many positive changes. I see fewer Greeks smoking and many taking up running and exercise. I see more women participating in sports, and younger people and children getting active. And I see the diet improving. All of this makes me very happy.

Could you name your favorite places to run in Greece?

This could be a very long answer! I really love running in Messinia, and on the islands of Ikaria, Crete, Santorini, and Hydra, but also in Athens. I have traveled the world and there is no place as diverse and varied as Greece. I don’t just say that because I am Greek, I say that because it is true.



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