In the night of his 30th birthday, after a few drinks, Dean Karnazes decided that he would celebrate by running all the way from San Francisco down the coast to the town of Half Moon Bay, a distance of 30 miles. So began a career as an endurance runner. He has run 50 marathons in 50 consecutive days in all 50 states, and taken part in such extreme competitions as a marathon to the South Pole and a 135-mile race through Death Valley, one of the hottest places on Earth. Karnazes once ran 350 miles in 81 hours and 44 minutes, without stopping to sleep. His account of his feats of distance running, Ultramarathon Man, is a bestseller. Karnazes’s superhuman exertions are sponsored by The North Face, the company that make the kit he wears in his coaching videos. The North Face, a Bay Area-based outdoor clothing manufacturer, sells garments and gear for climbing, backpacking, running, and skiing. Its stores are decorated with huge photographs of people climbing icy peaks and running through meadows. Central to the brand’s ethos are the professional athletes it sponsors, people not widely known but celebrated in their fields – names such as Karnazes and Pete Athans, who has climbed Everest seven times. The North Face sells the idea of adventure – of pushing limits – whether running long distances, climbing an untried rockface, or sleeping outside at sub-zero temperatures. Its tagline is “never stop exploring”. (“We have actually been approached with partnerships about spacesuits to Mars and things like that,” one publicist told me recently.) This canny marketing of adventure has made The North Face the dominant player in a booming outdoor-wear market – a $4bn industry in the US alone. And its closest rival in the contest to sell the thrill of the wilderness to the masses may be a company whose origins and history are tightly intertwined with its own: Patagonia. Read more at The Guardian.