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Balancing Work And Family With A Guy Who Runs Marathons Before Breakfast

Routine Behavior is a new series where we talk to guys who successfully juggle businesses and careers with parenting about the routines that keep them on track. First up, ultrarunner and endurance freak Dean Karnazes, who’s managed to raise a son and a daughter while doing things like running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days (twice) and running a marathon to the South Pole. There are a few things you might learn from a guy like Karnazes; a viable daily exercise routine is not one of them.

What time do you start answering emails in the morning?
In the morning? I pretty much answer emails 24-7. Doesn’t everybody?

How do you reconnect with your kid when you get home from work each day?
I work at home so I connect with them constantly. It’s more like they ask me to go on a run to disconnect with them for a while.

What’s the one piece of kid-related gear that you can’t live without?
In bygone days it was a jog stroller, but now’s it’s a Snapchat account. Even though we live in the same household, sometimes we converse more via text. Not my preferred mode of communication, but I’ve tried to adapt to the way kids live these days (though I still refuse using emojis).

How many times a week do you get home for dinner and do you ever cook?
My travel schedule is obscene. Therefore, we’re only able to eat together as a family a couple times a week. I cook for them all the time, though I’m a really healthy eater and refuse to relax my standards. So they end up eating a second dinner, of “dad unapproved” foods.

How much exercise do you get in a given week and what kind?
I’m in a constant state of training. On a good day I like to bang out a marathon before breakfast. I never sit down. My entire office is setup at waist level and I do all my writing and emailing while standing up and bouncing around on my toes. I’ve got a pull-up and dip bar in my office, a sit-up matt and TRX suspension straps. Throughout the day I cycle through sets of pull-ups, push-ups, dips, sit-ups and a TRX routine that’s an ass kicker. Then, in the afternoon, I like to go for a shorter, quicker run, perhaps 10 miles, but at pace that burns. So yes, I get a fair amount of exercise during the week.

“On a good day I like to bang out a marathon before breakfast”

What’s the longest you’ve ever played with your kid without looking at your phone?
I’m pretty good at turning things off. I refuse to be prisoner to a cell phone. A friend once said to me: “Dude, you’re missing out on the digital revolution.” And I shot back, “Dude, you’re missing out on life.” When I’m with my kids, devices are switched off (or at least put into silence mode).

How often do you travel for work and do you look forward to it or dread it?
I’ve been to all 7 continents, twice over. Sometimes I live out of a suitcase for weeks or months at a time. Sure, it can be exhausting. But I love what I do so it doesn’t feel like “work” at all. I wouldn’t trade my life for anything, despite the nearly nonstop travel schedule. My kids have been beneficiaries of these travels. They’ve seen all 50 U.S. states (I once ran 50 marathons, in 50 states, in 50 days), Canada, Europe several times, South America and Australia. In many ways, the travel’s provided a better education than a traditional stale classroom.

What’s your go-to when you need work-related inspiration? I listen to audiobooks. I’ve got a few hundred in my playlist and when I need inspiration I dive into a new book (while running, of course).

What’s your go-to when you need to completely turn your brain off?
I can’t completely turn off my brain. I’m Greek, we’re thinkers. That’s what we do.

How’s your attendance record at your kid’s events/games?
I’ve made the ones that matter. I think they appreciate the fact that I’m not a sideline “soccer dad” barking orders at the coach and screaming at the referees. Whenever there’s a game or event that’s important to my kids, I make it a point to be there. It’s good for both of us.

What’s your kid’s favorite book at the moment?
My daughter’s reading The Kite Runner right now and really enjoying it. My son’s not a big reader. He either reads excerpts or Cliff Notes. He just finished, To Kill a Mockingbird, but I’m not sure Cliff Notes qualify as actually reading a book.

What’s your kid’s favorite toy at the moment?
My kids are a bit older. Right now they’re digging on Google Cardboard. It’s a poor man’s version of virtual reality, but the experience is amazingly realistic for something fashioned out of a cardboard box.

Learn more about how Karnazes manages run marathons the same way most people brush their teeth, check out his New York Times bestseller, Run: 26.2 Stories Of Blisters And Bliss.