“Greece is a Spectacular and Life-changing Experience!” – Interview with Dean (Konstantinos) Karnazes, Greek-American Ultramarathon Runner, Ambassador of “Navarino Challenge”
When Greek-American ultramarathon man Dean (Konstantinos) Karnazes received an invitation to become the ambassador of the “Navarino Challenge”, an event held in the Peloponnese region in southern Greece to raise awareness on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and on the global issue of childhood obesity, he easily accepted.
“It is a great honor for me to serve in this role, since I am a strong advocate of the Mediterranean diet and the benefits of fitness and exercise”, says Karnazes, a runner who in his career has covered 350 miles (560 km) in 80 hours and 44 minutes without sleep.
An internationally recognized endurance athlete, Karnazes supported the first and second “Navarino Challenge” held in 2013 and 2014 respectively. This September, he will be in Greece once again to lead the event’s third consecutive organization in Messinia and Costa Navarino in the Peloponnese.
“Messinia and Costa Navarino are the perfect setting for this event because it harkens back to our Greek heritage of healthy, active living… The “Navarino Challenge” has brought increased attention to this region and all the wonders that it holds.” – Dean Karnazes
As ambassador of the event, Dean Karnazes will spread awareness regarding how to fight childhood obesity through sports, healthy living and the right nutrition. He will also focus on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
GTP had the opportunity to talk with Dean Karnazes, before the third “Navarino Challenge” event kicks off on September 1. Karnazes is proud of his Greek heritage and aims to spread the word that Greece is a “life-changing experience” as a destination.
Also a bestselling author, Karnazes is in the process of finishing a book about Greece in which he aims to represent the country in all its glory.
Dean Karnazes on the “Navarino Challenge” and Greece
- GTP: How did you become involved in the “Navarino Challenge” event – the first marathon race that aims to spread awareness on childhood obesity and the benefits of the Mediterranean diet – and, in your opinion, why was Messinia selected as the host destination?
Dean Karnazes: The organization of the event contacted me to become the ambassador and figurehead of the “Navarino Challenge”. It is a great honor for me to serve in this role, since I am a strong advocate of the Mediterranean diet and the benefits of fitness and exercise. Messinia and Costa Navarino are the perfect setting for this event because it harkens back to our Greek heritage of healthy, active living. But credit for making the “Navarino Challenge” come to life belongs to Akis Tsolis and Peter Poulos. They deserve the recognition.
- GTP: This is the third year that you are supporting the “Navarino Challenge” as ambassador of the event. What are your impressions from the two previous organizations? What feedback have you received?
Dean Karnazes: I have made many friends and acquaintances over the years and many of them have begun to eat healthier and exercise more regularly because of attending the “Navarino Challenge”. Nothing makes me prouder. I have received many, many messages from attendees saying how much they enjoyed the event and how much they learned. We have changed people’s lives, and that is a wonderful thing.
- GTP: What should we expect at this year’s “Navarino Challenge”? What would you say is the biggest “challenge” of the event?
Dean Karnazes: This year’s event presents new routes, which are challenging yet rewarding. The spirit of the “Navarino Challenge” is to try your best, regardless of age or ability. Everyone is encouraged to participate, but it won’t be easy. That’s what makes is worthwhile! Nothing that comes easy in life is ever of any real value.
- GTP: We would like your comment on the fact that the “Navarino Challenge” has been included in the European Week of Sport, a new initiative launched by the European Commission that will take place for the first time in September and aims to inform on the benefits of practicing sports or physical activity and motivate citizens to take up a regular activity.
Dean Karnazes: Of course it makes me very proud. Being Greek, this is a great distinction and one that will help our country shine. The “Navarino Challenge” is an innovative approach to combining both elite athletes and everyday citizens in a celebration of fitness and health. We have built a model that is envied the world over.
- GTP: We understand that you are the founder of Karno Kids, a non-profit organization that aims to reverse the worldwide problem of childhood obesity and inspire youth to live healthier and active lives. What exactly does the organization do for these causes? What should our readers know about childhood obesity?
Dean Karnazes: Childhood obesity is a horrible tragedy and one that robs youth of their prime. Children love to run and play, but often we do not give them the opportunity to do so. Karno Kids helps provide these opportunities for kids to do what they naturally love to do. It also encourages parents to get more active and become good role models. Too often parent are inactive and eat poor diets, and that is bad for kids to see. Parents must take responsibility for the solution and not be part of the problem.
- GTP: Events have become an increasingly significant component of destination branding. You certainly have travelled a lot and seen many places. How do you find Messinia as a host/tourism destination and do you believe that the “Navarino Challenge” has strengthened the destination’s brand?
Dean Karnazes: Messinia is truly a magical place. I have traveled around the world many times, but Messinia is unlike anywhere else. It is an ancient land, one that inspires and awes. The “Navarino Challenge” has brought increased attention to this region and all the wonders that it holds.
- GTP: Now, speaking as a visitor to Greece, what are your impressions of the country as a holiday destination?
Dean Karnazes: Greece is a spectacular and life-changing experience. I have influenced many Americans to travel to Greece and they always tell me what a fabulous time they had. The Greek economy depends on tourism and I am dedicated to doing all that I can to help Greece and my fellow Greek people.
- GTP: What other parts of Greece have you visited? Which would you say is your favorite destination and why?
Dean Karnazes: There are so many places in Greece I love. Athens has it’s sparkle, Tripoli is a jewel, Sparta is memorable, ancient Messini is spiritual, Ikaria, the island of my mother’s family, is amazing! I hope to spend more of my life in Greece in the years ahead. I feel at home here more than anyplace else.
- GTP: Are you perhaps planning any future actions in Greece?
Dean Karnazes: Many. I am also finishing a book about Greece that I think will be a bestseller, better than any of my previous books. It’s called, The Road to Sparta, and I’ve worked very hard on it to represent Greece in all her glory.
GTP: Greece is currently in the midst of economic and political uncertainty. Do you have any advice for the Greeks?
Dean Karnazes: Be strong. The Greeks are no strangers to adversity and hardship, but we always emerge stronger. Cherish the simple things in life, like family and friends. Nothing matters more than the people around you; money can’t change that. I know many wealthy Americans and they are less happy than the simple country people of Greece.
- GTP: In a past interview of yours, you had said that you are planning to run a marathon in all 204 countries around the world in a year. Do we have any update on this?
Dean Karnazes: This challenge is proving more difficult than anything else I’ve done in my life. But I am not deterred. We Greeks are persistent people and we do not give up easily. I want to accomplish this incredible feat and show that the Greeks are indomitable!
For the routes schedule of the “Navarino Challenge” 2015 and information on registration, press here.
GTP is a Strategic Communication Partner of the “Navarino Challenge” event.
About Dean Karnazes
Dean (Konstantinos) Karnazes was born in Inglewood in Los Angeles County, California, southwest of Los Angeles, to Nick and Fran Karnazes, parents of Greek ancestry.
TIME magazine named him as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential People in the World.” Men’s Fitness hailed him as one of the fittest men on the planet.
Karnazes has pushed his body and mind to inconceivable limits. Among his many accomplishments, he has run 350 continuous miles, foregoing sleep for three nights. He’s run across Death Valley in 120 degree temperatures, and he’s run a marathon to the South Pole in negative 40 degrees. On ten different occasions, he’s run a 200-mile relay race solo, racing alongside teams of twelve.
In 2006, Karnazes ran 50 marathons, in all 50 US states, in 50 consecutive days, finishing with the NYC Marathon, which he ran in three hours flat.
Karnazes and his incredible adventures have been featured on 60 Minutes, The Late Show with David Letterman, CBS News, CNN, ESPN, The Howard Stern Show, NPR’s Morning Edition, the BBC, and many others. He has appeared on the cover of Runner’s World and Outside, and been featured in, to mention a few. He is a monthly columnist for Men’s Health, the largest Men’s publication in the world.