Running For His Life


Tomorrow's the day! New York Times bestselling author and ultramarathon runner Dean Karnazes will speak to Brooks School students and employees on January 14 at 7:30 p.m. in the Center for the Arts about his life story and incredible career. (His mind-boggling achievements include running 50 marathons in 50 consecutive days in all 50 U.S. states, as well as running 350 miles non-stop!)


The extreme athlete, named by TIME magazine as one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World," penned this year's All-Community Read: The Road to Sparta, about his recreation of the 153-mile run from Athens to Sparta that inspired the modern marathon — relying solely on foods available in 490 B.C. such as figs, olives and cured meats.

Each year at Brooks, a different academic department selects a title that students, faculty and staff all read, discuss and incorporate into lessons and assignments. The Road to Sparta is our fifth tome and was chosen by the world languages department.

  • Last year, the mathematics department selected Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success.
  • The English department chose Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go in 2017.
  • The science department picked Ernest Cline's Ready Player One in 2016.
  • The history department selected Sonia Nazario's Enrique's Journey in 2015.


"We wanted to get a book that would be accessible and intriguing to students," said Chair of the World Languages Department Peter Neissa. "What we see in the book is that as Karnazes runs through these 153 miles, he ruminates on how his family emigrated from Greece to America and what that means to him. Running beside some of the buildings that formed the foundation for democracy was also not lost to us in these times. The fact that the language was ancient Greek and Latin was a bonus also, as they are the basis for most romance languages."

Learning that his work had been chosen as Brooks' 2020 ACR Karnazes admitted, "I was honored, and also nervous. I wrote The Road to Sparta by myself. Most athletes use ghostwriters, but I wanted the challenge of writing my own book. I hope it was enjoyable for the community at Brooks School to read!"


We caught up with Karnazes, who is based in northern California, prior to his talk and asked the motivated man about motivating others at Brooks . . .

Q: Your messages of persistence and perseverance are beneficial for everyone to hear, but why would you say they're particularly important for high school students?

Karnazes: "The lessons learned from running translate to broader life lessons that are particularly important for younger individuals. Running hurts, everybody knows this, and it is difficult. Running teaches you how to overcome these challenges and persevere. Running also teaches you about resilience and never giving up. If someone had told me when I was younger that one day I would run 200 miles without stopping I would have said, 'No way.' That's like running from Boston to New York. But then when I did it I proved to myself that I was better than I thought I was and could go further than I thought I could. For some people, just running one mile presents this same challenge — and that is fine. This is the beauty of running. We each have our own limits to conquer."


Q: You've spoken at Google, Sony, Nike, Apple, Yale, Amazon and Facebook, to name just a few. What made you want to speak with the community at Brooks?

Karnazes: "My love of running and of ancient Greece. Being 100 percent Greek, I'm proud of my heritage and the contribution the Greeks made to Western culture. I also remember a speaker at my high school when I was a kid who had ridden his bike across America. His talk had a lasting and profound impact on my life. Hopefully, the students can relate to me on some level, whether they run great distances, modest distance or not at all."


Q: What do you hope the audience takes away from your talk?

Karnazes: "I've been told that people remember very little about what you say during a talk. What they remember is the way you make them feel. Hopefully the students walk away feeling inspired and empowered. One theme that comes across clearly is that limitations are mostly in our head. If we can just get out of the way of our own perceived limitations, we are capable of truly extraordinary things. I hope the students carry this message away for the rest of their lives: that anything is possible!"

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