Rob Krar: Endurance Athlete

Searching the limits of the body and mind, one step at a time. Running into darkness to find the light.

Rob Krar, Endurance Athlete

There have been records, wins, trophies, and accolades—and while all those perks are hard earned, I have gained more than victories from my athletic pursuits. Competing at the highest levels of ultrarunning has offered much more—a platform for activism, an avenue to understand and grapple with depression, opportunity to connect with my life partner, and a chance to build a community.

My hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, lent the perfect setting to embark on a life of adventure. Growing up canoeing and cross-country skiing with my family in the Dundas Valley, an appreciation for nature, conservation, and land protection took an early hold. Eager to keep up with my older brother and father, a competitive streak began to reveal itself and there weren’t many sports I wasn’t willing to try.

Eventually my father entered the local Around the Bay 30K road race and by middle school I’d watched him compete in the Boston Marathon. I was struck by the experience, though it wouldn’t be until later in life that I’d discover my own path toward competitive running. In the meantime, I relished dabbling in less mainstream activities. Badminton? Water polo? Little-known-fact: I was a member of both teams in high school, although I ultimately found my greatest success during my teen years in triathlon, twice representing Canada at the World Championships.

When I moved on to Butler University I focused on cross country and middle distance events including the 800M and 1500M, all while completing my studies in the Doctor of Pharmacy program. After graduating in 2002, I thought I was done with running—and in all the obvious ways, I was. I took a position in Phoenix, Arizona, as a pharmacist on the graveyard shift, working from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. seven days on and seven days off—a demanding schedule I held for the next 13 years.

Unhappy in the sprawling hot, desert city, I took a new job in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 2006. Planning to study for my Canadian board exams and move back to the homeland, I’d run very little since 2001. But the community in the high-altitude, mountain oasis tugged me back in. Training with intensity—perhaps too much of it—by 2007 and after running the Boston Marathon, injuries began to hamper my goals. They didn’t, however, stop me from entering the Transrockies Run in 2009, which turned out to be both a fortunate and unfortunate decision.

It was at the 120-mile, six-day stage race, that I ran my body into the ground, barely able to cross the finish line on the final stage. Although I ended up on the sidelines for some time, the universe hadn’t completely conspired against me as it was during that race that I met my future wife, Christina Bauer. Soon after I returned home I was diagnosed with Haglund’s deformity on both of my heels, requiring surgery and two years away from running. In the meantime, Christina and I had plenty of time to fall in love and get to know each other through our many shared outdoor passions—camping, hiking, climbing, fly fishing, and ski mountaineering. But there was no running…and it didn’t seem like there ever would be again.

Living in Flagstaff, however, doesn’t allow many people to ever completely step away from the sport and I recognized that running provided a sense of peace and a way to cope with ongoing struggles with depression. I entered the 2011 Moab 33K on a whim after spending most of the winter ski mountaineering up the local slopes of Arizona Snowbowl. I unexpectedly won. Several other wins quickly followed and finally I realized my place was on the trails—and the longer the distance, the better.

Before I knew it I found myself running ultras. I earned my way into the 2013 Western States Endurance Run by winning the Leona Divide 50M. I set the then Fastest Known Time for the double and single crossings of the Grand Canyon, placed second in my debut at the 100-mile distance at States, and launched a career in ultrarunning. My other proudest moments include winning Western States twice, and competing and winning three 100-mile races in the span of 11 weeks in 2014—Western States, Leadville, and Run Rabbit Run. I am also incredibly honored that I was twice voted the men’s Ultra Runner of the Year, in 2013 and 2014.

I feel so fortunate that my success has provided opportunities beyond competition. Most meaningfully I have been able to speak out on mental health, and hope that sharing my experiences in dealing with depression helps to take away some of the stigma associated with it. I strive to speak honestly about how running has, in some instances, helped ease my struggles, and with equal honesty share about the dark days when it’s impossible to get myself out the door.

My partnership with Christina, a fierce outdoor woman and talented athlete in her own right, has provided balance, stability, love, and teamwork. We joined with the Sierra Club in 2015 to advocate for the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument, which if it had been declared would have protected the land we cherish most from uranium mining and logging, among other threats; and we will continue to advocate for the protection of public lands in the future.

It is also Christina’s influence that has allowed me to flourish in other competitive endurance sports, including ski mountaineering. After competing in Canada and the US the last three winters, 2017 provided the opportunity to once again represent my country, this time at the Ski Mountaineering World Championships high in the Italian Dolomites. To cap off the season I raced with a North Face teammate Mike Foote at the iconic four day Pierra Menta stage race in the French Alps.

Christina and I have recently started opening our home to aspiring ultrarunners from around the world by offering multiple camps in Flagstaff throughout the year. New friendships have flourished and a community of ultrarunners has connected on many levels beyond running. The camaraderie and support borne on the trails is a happy result of welcoming a range of ages and abilities into the sport, and we cherish our newfound community.

Ultimately, becoming a successful endurance athlete only matters as much as it can be leveraged for good in the community and for the causes closest to my heart. I hope my performances can serve as inspiration for others to make positive changes in their lives. I will continue to seek opportunities to share my experiences and expertise through training and racing, coaching, camps, speaking, and continuing the important dialogue around mental health issues.

View Available Camps

"The fall retreat exceeded every expectation I had. I arrived needing a good break from work and looking forward to chance to explore the Flagstaff area, spend time with like-minded folks, and learn from the best. Of course the trails and runs were spectacular, especially in the height of fall colors, but what I didn’t anticipate was the incredible warmth, generosity and graciousness of our hosts: Rob, Christina, and the guides that joined us each day of the camp..."

- Chad ‑ Richland, WA View All Testimonials
Accomplishments

Accomplishments

Selecting the moments I’m most proud of are difficult. There are the obvious ones—big performances, like winning Western States in 2014; however, I’m struck by how much some of my very first experiences stay with me. Like my first 50-mile race at the Leona Divide in 2013, one I entered at the last moment, and how I first went to that “dark place” I’ve spoken of so often. Perhaps closest to my heart is the 42 magical miles I spent below the rim of the Grand Canyon only thirteen days after Leona Divide, during what was then the Fastest Known Time for the double crossing. I have rarely felt so connected to myself and to my surroundings. To be in the depths of this Canyon is to feel its presence and power as a living, breathing entity. I was alone in a vast and imposing place for many hours and it was a time of focus but also a reflective and meditative experience that helped me realign my priorities and understand more clearly the path ahead of me. It’s these moments that will live on in my memories most vividly and I take the most pride in.

Other Accomplishments:

  • Ultra Runner of the Year—2014 & 2015
  • 2-time Western States Endurance Run 100M champion—2014 & 2015
  • Leadville Race Across the Sky 100M champion—2015
  • Winner of Western States Endurance Run, Leadville 100 & Run Rabbit Run in a single year
  • The North Face Endurance Challenge 50M 2013 champion

 

Events

Between coaching, training and spending time in the beautiful outdoors of Northern Arizona, you can catch me at a number of upcoming events.

Event

Date

Location

DateSeptember 15th 2017
LocationChampéry, Switzerland
DateSeptember 16th 2017
LocationChampéry, Switzerland
DateOctober 5th 2017
LocationFlagstaff, AZ
DateOctober 12th 2017
LocationFlagstaff, AZ
DateDecember 2nd 2017
LocationCape Town, South Africa
DateFebruary 8th 2018
LocationFlagstaff, AZ

Partners

The journey I’m on would not be possible without the generous support of so many, including my sponsorship partners. From the beginning, these companies placed their trust in me and have played a huge role in allowing me to chase goals I once thought impossible.

  • The first company I worked with, I’m honored and humbled to continue to partner with The North Face and to be a member of a Global Athlete team that includes some of the greatest pioneers and awe-inspiring athletes of our time. I look forward to a long and adventurous relationship with The North Face. Visit The Northface
  • My ties to Nathan go back well before I ran my first ultra. Our relationship began by chance when photographer Ken Etzel needed a few last minute "models" for a Nathan shoot deep below the rim of the Grand Canyon. It's been a huge privilege to work so closely with Nathan, culminating in the release of the VaporKrar and VaporHowe hydration line.

    Visit Nathan Sports
  • I still remember my first pair of Smartwool ski socks as a young lad. My excitement over a great pair of socks hasn’t changed much since then. They are constantly refining, perfecting, and striving to create the very best. Whether on the ski hill or the trails, they always have me covered.

    Visit Smartwool
  • A Flagstaff connection is at the roots of this partnership going all the way back to 2007 when I shared miles Magdalena Lewy-Boulet was she prepared for the 2008 Olympic marathon trials. Now the vice president of research and development at GU, as well as one of the best ultra runners in the word, I'm proud to call her a friend. GU is constantly working to keep things fresh in the taste department and use the latest science to constantly update and refine their products.

    Visit GU Energy
  • Another longstanding friendship is at the root of this partnership. I met Lauren Fleshman, owner and genius behind Picky Bars, a decade ago as she prepped for the 2008 Olympic trials. I've long respected Lauren and her husband Jesse, co-owner of Picky Bars and a world class triathlete. I was honored to join their inaugural athlete team. Athletes making quality fuel for life and training is a beautiful thing. Bonus: They regularly save Christina and I from losing it in a hangry rage and our relationship thanks them!

    Visit Picky Bars
  • Nutrition that not only supports strong performances but also a healthy and long life. The oils, vitamins and teas are an integral and important part of my life each and every day. I am grateful to have the support of such a great company that provides quality nutritional products.

    Visit Flora Health
  • My introduction to ski mountaineering in 2011 was a corner piece of my return to running, and ultimately the ultra distance. As my passion for winter racing grows each season I'm more excited than ever to find a partner in Dynafit.

    Visit Dynafit
  • To me, sharing a beer with friends is the epitome of balance. It is important to find these ways to connect and unwind and I thank Wanderlust for providing the perfect environment. Stop in the brewery and you will find good beer, great people and if you hit the right night, great food without any fuss. You can see the whole operation as you savor the results. Owner and head brewmaster Nathan Friedman is a master of his craft and an inspired me to chase my own dreams.

    Visit Wanderlust Brewing
  • Ryan and all the wonderful people at Paragon have helped me get back on my feet after injury and more importantly address weaknesses to prevent future injury. Their assessments and plans are invaluable and their strength work classes are fantastic.

    Philosophy: Prehab is built on the concept that the movement assessments typically used in a physical therapy setting post-injury should be used in a training setting pre-injury.

    Visit Paragon Athletics
  • This company is Flagstaff through and through—created by long time resident Danny Giovale, Kahtoola is at the forefront of light and effective winter traction devices. The MICROspikes are now a classic and I was happy to provide feedback during the design of the new running focused NANOspike. Danny is inspirational member of our community and each year Kahtoola hosts the Agassiz Uphill event at Arizona Snowbowl, raising tens of thousands of dollars for Camp Colton, a local outdoor leadership camp for all sixth graders in the school district.

    Visit Kahtoola
  • Any great running community has a great running store and Flagstaff is no exception. Owners Vince and Sarah Sherry are incredibly dedicated and have grown Run Flagstaff from a small purveyor of running goods to a hub at the center of the running community.

    Visit Run Flagstaff