Running is largely a solitary sport. Yet, the solo toil leads to a communal bond among runners worldwide. And this year, the U.S. Department of State recruited ultrarunner Dean Karnazes to be a “diplomat on the run” as a representative for the Sports Diplomacy initiative. The program is designed to encourage interaction and discussion between communities around the world through sport.

“Dean’s message of empowerment and inspiration through running was a natural fit for the State Department’s Sports Envoy Program,” says Elaine Clayton, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Dubbed the “Silk Road Ultra,” the route followed part of the ancient Silk Road route that served as a commercial and cultural exchange corridor for centuries. The 53-year-old Karnazes ran more than 325 miles through Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, enduring heat, hail, rain, cold temperatures and unspoiled landscapes.

Click through to get a sense of his expansive journey.

All images are courtesy of Courtesy of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.