Dean Karnazes is set to run the San Francisco Marathon 52.4-mile ultra, an event he started years ago

The San Francisco Ultramarathon is two full marathons; certainly enough to warrant a ride home. Yet, on the day of the event’s first year, Dean Karnazes, one of its creators, ran about three marathons. Karnazes, who still resides on the Kentfield/Ross border, ran to the Embarcadero for the start of the inaugural ultra seven years ago. Following the 52.4-mile feat, he headed home, on foot, reaching the Golden Gate Bridge before the lure of a passing bus was too enticing. Altogether, Karnazes estimates he ran between 75 and 80 miles in the 12-hour period. Karnazes, who has watched the event grow from eight people in its first year, is one of about 100 runners set to embark on the San Francisco Ultramarathon, which begins at 11 p.m. Saturday. The ultra, originally titled “Worth The Hurt,” is a fundraiser, with participants either raising $1,000 for a charity of their choice or paying a higher entrance fee, donating the difference to the race’s featured charities. The first loop begins in front of the Ferry Building Marketplace. The course is the San Francisco Marathon backward — sans the trek over the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County — and includes navigating through overflowing bars in the Mission District and Haight-Ashbury. Runners finish, eat, change into dry clothes and often nap, then join the 9,000 marathoners at 5:30 a.m. There are expected to be 27,500 total participants in the ultra, marathon, both half marathons and 5K. “It’s been remarkable,” Karnazes said. “I still can’t believe that we get about 100 participants now at the race. We don’t really advertise it too much; it’s more word of mouth. Ultramarathoning is still very grassroots. I don’t think we’ll ever see it as a mass-participant event. “Dare I say it: it’s actually very fun.” Karnazes, 55, one of the most decorated ultra runners in the world, has proved his definition of fun differs from most.

posted Friday July 27th