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SPORTS

The Greek-American Ultramarathon, Dean Karnazes in an interview with the National Herald

October 18, 2022

The Greek-American Ultramarathon, Ambassador of Navarino Challenge, Konstantine Dean Karnazes in Interview to The National Herald.

Let’s go back a little bit to the date of October 18th, 2013 when you first visited the village Silimna in Arcadia, the birthplace of your family for Navarino Challenge. It was the first day race which had a celebratory character, since almost 100 years ago in 1913, your grandfather left Silimna as an immigrant and went to America. It was a race that beyond its sports interest, also had some very touching moments, as you visited Greece and met your Greek relatives for the first time. How did you feel on your first visit to Greece for Navarino Challenge?

This is a complicated question to answer. There is a beautiful Greek word that expresses the emotions I felt: χαρμολύπη. I experienced great joy coming to my ancestral homeland, but also great sorrow having waited half my lifetime to do so. As a youngster, I was told that Greece was dirty and poor. Many immigrants left the “old country” during difficult circumstances looking for a better life in America. Their memories were of a hard land with little opportunity. I traveled extensively across the world but never wanted to go to Greece because I did not want to see this once great country in its decay and rot. Finally, it was Peter Poulos who convinced me to come to Greece. What I discovered was nothing like what I imagined. Greece is the most interesting, diverse, culturally rich and beautiful country on earth. Now I can’t get enough of her.

Ultramarathon athlete Dean Karnazes is seen after competing at the Navarino Challenge Run at on October 19, 2013 in Messini, Greece. (Photo by Vladimir Rys)

Ever since you are visiting Greece, Costa Navarino and Messinia on an annual basis for Navarino Challenge. How do you find Greece? What’s so special?

My worldview is very refined because I have traveled so extensively. There is no place on earth like Greece. This perspective is from someone that has seen and experienced many great places, but nowhere approaches Greece. Sometimes the Greeks themselves don’t see this because they are trying so hard to make a living and are caught up in the day-to-day activities of a busy life, but I have the luxury of seeing Greece through unfettered eyes. My love for this land and its people could not be stronger.

 

This is your 10th year in Greece. Are you feeling more Greek now?

My language skills are atrocious. I am ashamed of this and there is no excuse. But everything else about me is entirely Greek. I have spent the past decade immersed in studying classics and recently turned my intellectual curiosity to the Greek War of Independence era. Something else I’ve been working quietly on is a Hollywood screenplay based on the life of Socrates. This is a big, bold telling of one of the greatest humans that has ever lived. It is something that will make every Greek proud and once again elevate our rightful Hellenic prominence (unlike My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which is an utter disgrace to the Greek people and Greek culture).

credit: Navarino Challenge

Tell us about your involvement in the sports tourism fest of Navarino Challenge. How it started and how it has evolved?

The Navarino Challenge is essentially the highest form of hospitality, and I see future forms of foot tourism blossoming in Greece. I am working with ActiveMedia Group on developing a Greek Running Tours business that caters to sophisticate travels that want a unique and intimate taste of Greece beyond the touristed areas. Participants in these 8 days, 7 night tours will have causal runs each day where they experience the richness of Greece on foot, and at the end of the run will be cultural experiences, such as bread making, olive oil pressing, wine making, Greek dancing and others. Guest stay in fine hotels each night, eat authentic Greek food. There will be massage and spa services available and the finest Greek foods for the local region. This is my effort to upgrade the type of tourist visiting Greece to higher-end travelers who spend more money and respect both the people and the land. Greece doesn’t need more tourists; Greece needs better tourists.

 

What does Navarino Challenge mean to you?

The Navarino Challenge is the bringing together of people of all ages and abilities in a celebration of health, happiness and arête.

 

Which is the feedback you receive in USA when you talk about this event, all these years? What should we expect from this year’s event which includes more than 40 sports activities and 16 Olympic sports?

When I explain to people in the US about the Navarino Challenge the main question they ask me: How do I sign up? This year being our 10-Year Anniversary, the excitement is higher than ever.

during the Navarino Challenge 2015 at Costa Navarino on September 12, 2015 in Romanos, Greece. (Photograph by Vladimir Rys)

In which activities will you participate?

As many as I can. My entire family is traveling with me this year, 12 Karnazes athletes, and we hope to have a family member in every of the 40 activities!

 

Konstantine Karnazes has achieved almost everything. Is there is any new goal for you that you wish to accomplish within the next years?

I have been blessed to run across the globe for the past three decades. But I still have future goals and aspirations. Right now I’m planning for a run in 2024 from the lowest point on earth—the Dead Sea—to the highest point on earth—the top of Mt. Everest. When I get to the summit of Mt. Everest I hope to have two flags, one for America—the land of my birth—and one for Greece—the land of my blood.

 

What is the message that Konstantine would like to send to the Greeks living in USA and all over the world?

Greek cultural and language has influenced the entire world. From this small country has flowed an outsized influence on the way we conduct our lives. And, quite ironically, the classical era of Greece still holds many of the answers to today’s greatest problems. The words and writings of Pericles, Aeschylus, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and so many others can help guide us through the modern crisis of humanity. I do believe this with all of my conviction. The Greeks were great thinkers, and great thoughts are timeless.

 

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