CAPE TOWN – Together with Usain Bolt and Mo Farah, Canadian-born Rob Krar was named one of Runner’s World Magazine’s “50 Most Influential People in Running”.
He was ultra-runner of the year in 2014 and 2015, twice winner of the Western States 100 miler in California – one of the most competitive ultra-distance races on the planet – and twice Leadville 100 miler champion, the last just three months ago.
Krar is a strong favourite to win Saturday’s Ultra-trail Cape Town 100km title.
Incredibly for someone boasting those achievements, Krar only began trail running seven years ago, but in that time he has become a legend in the sport.
With a flowing beard the most striking aspect of his backwoodsman looks, Krar looks out of place in his comfortable race hotel in Sea Point.
Now at 41 years of age, Krar is making good a commitment he made last year, to run Ultra-trail Cape Town.
“I was injured last year, so could not make the trip to Africa. But I don’t like to go back on a commitment, so I’m pleased to be here this year,” said Krar.
“The invitation has provided an opportunity for Christina (his wife) and me to travel and explore new places and meet new people in Africa.
“I heard about the Cape Town course two years ago, and it appears to be much more technical than what my strengths are. But I enjoy new challenges, and I’m looking forward to the race.”
Growing up in Hamilton, Ontario, and being part of a family that enjoyed the outdoors, Krar developed a love for nature and wild places.
Following his university training in Indiana, where he completed a doctorate programme in pharmacy, Krar moved to Phoenix, Arizona, to take up a pharmaceutical position, where he worked “the graveyard” night shift for 13 years.
Just over three years ago, Krar took the courageous decision to quit his job. “It was a case of a brave new world for me,” admitted Krar.
“I left a comfortable job where I was paid well, but where I wasn’t very happy, to a position of an uncertain financial future. But I am much happier with who I am as a person now.”
Kra has now built a career around his passion for distance running, working for his sponsor, North Face, coaching a group of athletes and hosting running camps.
“We moved to Flagstaff near the Grand Canyon – the best place in the world to be an ultra-distance runner.
“It’s high altitude, perfect climate and proximity to countless trails around the Grand Canyon make it perfect for us right now.”
Following his early success in ultra-distance trail running in 2013 to 2015, Krar suffered a series of injuries, the most serious coming in July 2017 when a misplaced stride a mile from the finish of a race led to a serious knee injury, which required surgery.
“Then began a very long, slow and frustrating recovery, and there were times when I thought I was done – my running career over,” Krar reflected.
“My first running steps were in January this year. It was only in June when I felt like a ‘happy to be out there’ runner again.
“It proved a tough time mentally and physically, and I wondered if I was ever going to recover.
“Then just in time for the Leadville 100 miler in August (USA’s second most important 100 miler), I managed to get back into running form and had the greatest race in my life at Leadville.
“To have come back at 41 years of age and have such a purposeful and imaginative race was something very special.
“I stood on starting line pretty sure I could get to the end, but with no idea how I would do in the race. Then the stars aligned, and it was a beautiful day.
“The biggest sliver of hope I can give others is to know that you can come back from those dark places through an inner strength you can’t train for.
“This helped me in my approach to racing and made me stronger, wiser and more balanced towards running in general.
“I’m looking forward to Ultra-trail Cape Town on Saturday – the mountains look spectacular! It’s my second big race of the year after Leadville and I would love to win.
“My training has been strong and I feel confident, but I’m not pre-occupied with winning – that would simply be a bonus.”
Unusually, Krar has little knowledge of the race or his opposition.
“Honestly I don’t think about it – I run my own race and don’t allow others to influence that.
“I’m going to be running well within my comfort zone early in the race and aiming to finish strong. That comes from being composed and relaxed at the start-line.”@StephenGranger3