Have you ever met someone super-human?

I’m fairly certain I did, along with a packed house of attendees during the general session of the 86th annual Southern Wholesalers Association Convention at the Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, Fla.

Ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes had a packed house shaking their heads as he checked off the mind-boggling amounts of running he’s done over the years. For those interested in what an ultra-marathon is? It’s anything more than the standard 26.2-mile marathon.

And Karnazes has plenty of those ultras on his resume. He’s run from Los Angeles to New York City with a stop in the White House front lawn; he’s run in 130-degree heat in Death Valley (where his shoes started to melt on the pavement) and in Antarctica. Should I keep going? He’s run 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states. Now you might ask who holds a marathon on a Tuesday? Karnazes, who has appeared on David Letterman’s show and on Jimmy Kimmel Live, explained his group contacted organizers of the top marathons in states where he did not actually compete in a regular marathon race and asked if they could recreate the marathon course so he could run it.

Oh, and he typically gets up at 3 a.m. and runs a marathon and then cooks his family breakfast. He once ordered a pizza during a run and had it delivered to a predetermined location on his route. I could go on and on with these types of stories.

Karnazes said he’s been thoroughly evaluated and tested from a medical sense. The unusual medical fact that was unearthed was that Karnazes’ body actually emits less lactic acid the more he runs, essentially meaning his muscles don’t tire out. This was presented during a television show hosted by comic book legend Stan Lee. I’m sure a Google search will bring up the particular video that was shown to SWA attendees.

“The body is a remarkable machine,” he said. “It adapts to the load placed on it.”

Karnazes, whose resting heart rate is in the high 30s, talked for about an hour in the general session and then moved across the resort for a question-and-answer session that was tremendously engaging. SWA attendees peppered the 51-year-old with question after question about topics ranging from his diet to what shoes he wears to how he goes to the bathroom on long runs.

A little advice from Dean Karnazes

Karnazes also offered some good advice that businesspeople can put to immediate use.

“You have to be a master of your craft and commit to your goals and sacrifice,” he said. “If you come up short sometimes, never give up. Those willing to succeed don’t give up no matter how bleak the situation is. They will fight and scratch until they reach their goals. Stay focused on the finish line. Focusing on goals is very important.”

He added that taking the bigger picture and breaking it into smaller components also is helpful in all walks of life.

“Break down large, seemingly impossible tasks into manageable pieces,” he said. “How do you run 1,000 miles? You run one mile 1,000 times.”

Karnazes told the story of preparing for a 100-mile footrace in some challenging terrain that featured both uphill and downhill running.

“That first 100-mile footrace was seemingly impossible. Not only was it 100 miles, but it was in the Sierra Nevadas where the elevation gain is 18,000 ft.,” he said. “In comparison, the Heartbreak Hill in the Boston Marathon is 230 ft. Your quads get eaten up more going downhill. I started doing exercises to help my quads. Successful people take knowledge and convert it into know-how.”

Karnazes frequently is asked why he does what he does?

“Humans don’t always do things rationally,” he said. “These are not rational acts.”

That drew plenty of laughs and applause.

SWA definitely hit it out of the park with Karnazes and Ian MacDougall (talking corporate lifecycles) as its guest speakers.

Overall, the 86th annual convention was a smash hit with attendance soaring to more than 700 people. The annual golf tournament had numbers above 120 and SWA Executive Vice President Terry Shafer said sponsorships are at a 20-year high.

Next year’s shin-dig returns to the Marriott Hilton Head (S.C.) resort property.


Read Part 1 of my SWA blog here.