When Dean Karnazes, 42, hits the ground running, there's always a possibility he may not stop. Known as the "Ultramarathon Man," Karnazes counts his longest race at 350 miles, which took him 80 hours and 44 minutes nonstop to run. During the countless hours on his feet, he learned some lessons that helped him rise to what he considers an even greater challenge: starting a business. In 1995, Karnazes co-founded EnergyWell Natural Foods, a San Francisco-based manufacturer of all-natural and organic snack foods. It has since been acquired, but Karnazes remains president of the company, now Good Health Natural Foods. We caught up with him to get his advice for entrepreneurs competing in "marathons" of their own.
Entrepreneur: What did you learn as a runner that helped you as an entrepreneur?
Dean Karnazes: The idea of never giving up, of being able to persist through very low times. When you run a marathon or farther, you experience some deep lows, and you start questioning your ability to succeed. It becomes a mental battle as well as a physical battle. It's the same thing in business. Every day, there are battles to be waged.
What keeps you going?
Karnazes: You have to dedicate yourself wholeheartedly to your goal. There's no faking your way through it. You have to pay your dues, and it isn't easy. The other factor that is important is passion. If you're not passionate about what you're doing-if you don't love it-then it becomes work, and it's very hard to accomplish your goal.
What advice can you offer to entrepreneurs who are struggling to cross the finish line?
Karnazes: Success, a lot of times, requires breaking a big goal into baby steps. The last time I ran 200 miles nonstop, I couldn't stand up at mile 165. I still had 35 miles to go. Instead of sitting there, saying, "I can't even stand up. How am I going to run 35 miles?" I just set a goal of standing up. I took a bigger goal and broke it into smaller pieces, and lo and behold, eight hours later, I was at the finish line.
A lot of times, you're better than you think. Until you put yourself in those situations, you really don't know what your limits are. Continually test your edge. Push as hard as you can every day.