Dean Karnazes celebrated his 30th birthday in 1992 by having a few drinks and going on a little run.
In fact, following the bender in a bar in San Francisco, Karnazes says he ran all the way to the 7-Eleven store in Half Moon Bay.
Upon completing the run, he called his wife and asked for her to pick him up. He stressed he was in Half Moon Bay and not in San Francisco.
That’s when his life changed forever.
An author of two books, Karnazes, now 50, is one of the world’s top endurance athletes and a philanthropist.
He never forgot where it all started for him, at a phone booth in Half Moon Bay.
In addition to speaking to a group of runners, signing autographs and posing for photos Saturday, prior to Sunday’s Half Moon Bay International Marathon, he took a few runners on a little run from the starting point of the race, south toward Francis State Beach, onto Kelly Avenue, across Highway 1, left on Main Street, across Highway 92, toward the convenience store and the pay phone, which is still there.
“I had no idea 20 years ago that I’d ever be standing there in these circumstances,” Karnazes said. “It’s quite magical.”
He paid homage to race Director Eric Vaughan on the drive back to Harbor Village.
“I have driven through here a number of times, but I have never stopped and stood at that phone booth before,” Karnazes said. “I never really paid attention to it before.”
The big surprise for Karnazes was that the pay phone is still there.
“I am blown away that 20 years later, that phone is still there,” Karnazes said. “I didn’t even know pay phones existed any more to be honest.”
“It has been waiting for you to come home,” Vaughan said with a smile.”
Crystal Hopson of Sacramento had no idea Karnazes would be the speaker the day before the race. She was just excited to be part of the race.
“To hear him tell the story was so much better,” Hopson said. “It’s makes it more real.”
Karnazes took plenty of pretty mental pictures while running Saturday, calling it “gorgeous.”
“I don’t think you can discount just how invigorating it is to breath that clean ocean air,” Karnazes said. “I have run a lot of marathons in a lot of great places. But there is no way that we have such clean air as on the California coast. I’m going to try.”
He was there Sunday to run as well as support the athletes and celebrate their success. He ran the half marathon. He didn’t worry about finishing.
“It’s my time to cheer others,” he said.