I've never met Dean Karnazes and probably won't, even though our paths could soon cross again. I like running. He likes running-just a little bit more than I do.
Karnazes is an extreme athlete with an extreme desire to help people who need donated organs. A few days from now, he'll start his leg of The Relay (www.therelay.com), an annual event here in Northern California. But unlike the scores of 12-person teams primed to run the 199-mile course from Calistoga in the wine country to Santa Cruz at the ocean on Oct. 23-24, he is a team unto himself, running the full course and then some to raise awareness for organ donation.
Not to minimize the feat, but he's done it before. In 2002 and 2003, he ran the official course in 46 hours. But Karnazes' personal race is longer-226 miles-and he's finished that in 57 hours, 53 minutes. To put it in context, one team in 2003 ran the official course in 39 hours.
This is the 10th anniversary of The Relay, called the longest party in California. As part of that commemoration, Karnazes will start his run Thursday, Oct. 21, in Bodega Bay at the Children's Bell Tower. The start signal will be given by Maria Pia Pedala. She is one of seven Italians whose lives were saved or altered 10 years ago by organs donated by the family Nicholas Green, a Bodega Bay boy who was killed by robbers during a trip to Italy.
The warmth, dedication and optimism of people like Karnazes and the other runners soften my sometimes cynical heart. As usual there will be a fair turnout of Silicon Valley types. Craig Welch's Blue Lightning runners from IBM will be there again. His team is always among the top finishers. Others signed up this year include the Cypress (Semiconductor) Steppers, led by Douglas Erlemann from Lucas, Texas; Blue Lightning Too from Morgan Hill, led by Francis Peters; and Nvidia's Run Forest Run, led by Keita Kitahama of Redwood City.
Our band of merrymakers, Run for Change (don't ask), returns for another year, sans the surly Irish guy nobody liked. I'm looking forward to running my overnight leg, probably near Crystal Springs Reservoir or Woodside, probably around 2 a.m., under a full moon. It'll be quiet and cool, and I'll be propelled on by Nicholas Green and the spirit of 3,000 others-and the fear that Karnazes may pass me.