Let’s forget how long an ultramarathon—100 miles—really is. Since it’s just shy of running four back-to-back-to-back-to-back marathons. And put aside how Rob Krar has already won two of its biggest races: the Western States 100 and Leadville 100. And let’s focus on how this bloke only started running ultras in 2012. Which is to say, if your New Year’s resolution were to go running once a week… you might catch up to him in 2019.
Now the 39-year-old stars in Chasing the Distance, an inspirational and beautiful (drone shots!) four-minute film in Arizona. He’d make a great lead for a Nike commercial or for the kind of energy goo in silver packets you see littered on remote trails in national parks. But Krar shot this spot with the Sierra Club to promote the proposed Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument, which would keep mining operations out of the two million acres surrounding the immense (but crowded) Grand Canyon.
Speaking of which, dude holds the ultra-run record not just for crossing the Canyon but for coming back in a single run. We caught up with him, so to speak, to get the scoop on how he does it—and how all of us can chase our dreams in 2016…
“The day before every ultra I just shake my head thinking, ‘How will I do this?’ I’m a very patient runner. You have to be patient. Because the race doesn’t really start until mile 60, 70, 80…”
Did I hear that right? Your wife is your running partner? My girlfriend can’t even get me to join her same gym.
Ha ha, we don’t run together a lot. We figured out early on that being running partners wouldn’t be good for our marriage. But we use each other as motivation to get up and run. It works for both of us in slightly different ways. I met Christina [Bauer] in 2009 at a 6-day race in Colorado called the Transrockies Run. I got injured and I was unable to run for two years. That time away from running was what made me able to fall in love with her. Later I was doing a 25k that offered a 50k, and I offered to do it on a whim. I enjoyed the feeling and the struggle. The Bootlegger 50k in Las Vegas.
Still. The Grand Canyon is the only American sight I’ve ever seen that isn’t more awe-inspiring in photos. But what makes you want to run it?
I moved to Flagstaff, Arizona from Hamilton, Ontario in December 2005. I can be standing on the Kaibad Trailhead in 90 minutes.
And you just thought, “Alright, I’ll just look at it for seven years and then dust that world record?”
Ha ha, I’ve been an athlete most of my life. I ran track in high school, but only short distances.
My friend Casey is a marathoner and he has a vlog out this week about the Pareto Principle: 80 percent of the work you do is 20 percent of the endeavor. i.e. 80 percent of running 26.2 miles doesn’t even begin until mile 22. Is that true of Ultras?
Yes. Both in training and racing. It’s a long way. Every time, the day before I just shake my head thinking, “How will I do this?” I’m a very patient runner. You have to be patient. Because the race doesn’t really start until mile 60, 70, 80…
It’s worse if you’re going for a record. The fast runners are still dialed in. You better feel pretty dang good at mile 15 to keep up. Three-and-a-half years ago, if someone asked if I would run an ultra I would just laugh. Certainly having Christina have a passion for it has made it easier. But again it’s tough. Not the lifestyle either of us would really have expected. We both run, but she doesn’t compete. It’s a never-ending search to find that balance.
Speaking of balance, this movie talks frankly about how you worked through depression on the trail.
I struggled with depression. So much kind of happened at once. Meeting Christina, understanding depression in my life, developing coping mechanisms. It is something I still struggle with. I don’t have the answers, I just know I need to be running. To discover new limits. That’s the role that running has in my life right now.
Alright. I’m sold. Wanna finish this interview while I run?
Sure. The most important thing is getting out the door. Being winter it’s tough. Days are short, it’s cold. Having the right gear can make the most difference. Smart clothing choices, dressing in layers can go a long way. Ski mountaineering helps me. Hiking up and skiing down at a resort. It’s almost n- impact cardio, gives your body a break. It’s like a spiritual renewal for me to be alone on the mountain in a new way.
Any secret gear I need?
Getting the right shoe for your body is key. The term “prehab” is coming into fashion now. It means getting the right shoe, correcting imbalances in your body. I’ve been on a circuit routine and I thought I was strong and wasn’t getting injured. But it opened my eyes to prehab.
I still get the feeling that I’ll hang up with you and never run again. What’s a typical week of running look like to you?
I try not to be so regimented—80 to 100 miles a week. I almost always take one day off. One long run a weekz—25 miles. And I’ll hit a couple extra long ones. I’ll max out there. The most important thing is what you do in between runs. How you treat your body. Nutrition, stretching, getting enough sleep. Are you listening to your body… and your mind as well?
Alright. I’m back. Had a great run. Now what?
Nutrition is key. I am very careful in general [that] I don’t eat meat. I don’t call myself a vegetarian. The day I can own my own farm and raise my own animals I might eat meat again. Christina has a passion and talent for food. We do a lot of grains and greens. We don’t cheat on treats or having desert. We just avoid extremes. That’s a good rule.
Says the guy who runs a hundred miles at a clip.
I’m conscious on those runs and I’m conscious of what I eat. When I get too serious and counting calories that’s when I’m eating too little.
So I’m looking at the Canyon. It’s like our entire moon is just a big chunk that chipped off the earth right here. What is a “rim-to-rim-to-rim” race?
I actually prefer not to use the term race: 42 miles, 9,000 feet of climbing and descent. There were organized races back in the 70s. But this is solo, which is great because it’s just you and the trail. I had a really magical day, weather, crowd, training, nutrition. Pretty special day too because the North Rim was closed. So for 32 miles I was alone in every direction. I finished in six hours, 21 minutes. From the trailhead, to the river, across to the other rim and then back where you started.
This movie though…
Being a part of this project was certainly the highlight of 2015 for us. It was a lot of fun to film. That was the first time working with a drone. If you played video games growing up, you’d probably be great at flying a drone. I asked Christina for one for Christmas. But… maybe next year.
Those are some incredible shots. Where is this part? [Sick drone overhead shot of trail]
North of the Grand Canyon, 1.7 million acres. What’s real eye-opening is how diversified the land is. You get into the pine and the ponderosa, it’s a giant chunk of land that you can hike and ride and camp for 10 days up there and get out of the pressures and demands of the concrete jungle. Preserve one of the largest plots of old growth forest. Create a corridor for animals to get to the Grand Canyon.
And what about your day job?
I worked as a graveyard shift pharmacist for 12 years. Working 7 nights in a row, then 7 days off. That’s how I was able to build out time for my running career. But it was a job I never felt much fulfillment from. I took a leave of absence this year and it really opened my eyes to how it as affecting my life. Running and my running endeavors are my full-time job now. It’s a brave new world.
What about all the guys—other guys, not me—who are going to take a one run and then ghost on their resolutions?
It goes back to getting out the door. There’s a hump to get over. Then you see some results and that gets you going. Find some friends to join you and some accountability. That goes a long way.
Photos by Ian Shive