Runners have many reasons to look up to Flagstaff’s Rob Krar.
Among his accomplishments are winning the Western States Endurance Run, Leadville 100 and Run Rabbit Run 100 in a single year. He uses his success to speak out about grappling with depression, bringing light to a dark place experienced by many.
And now, we have a new reason to admire him. In the past year, Krar displayed a hero’s grit.
“It’s funny how a single step can change the course of your life,” he told a packed crowd at Run Flagstaff Friday, Sept. 14. For Krar, that fateful step came in July 2017. About a mile before the end of a 50K, he hyperextended his leg, causing what he described as “an explosion in my knee.”
Not knowing how seriously he was hurt, Krar “hobbled and hopped to the finish line.” (Footnote: he won.) An MRI soon revealed missing cartilage under the patella and on the femur head.
“This was one of the worst cases my doctor had ever seen,” Krar said. Two weeks later, he was in surgery, wide awake (he doesn’t like full anesthesia) as Dr. Darius Moezzi used cadaver cartilage to rebuild his knee.
Afterward, the surgeon said those painful words: “You may never run again.” For Krar, they marked the start of his longest race yet.
Anyone who has endured a serious injury knows how the recovery process can douse your spirit. Spending eight hours a day in a “continuous passive motion” machine to keep his knee moving, going to twice-weekly rehab and strengthening sessions at Paragon Athletics and hosting running camps when he couldn’t actually run took their toll.
“All during that fall and into early 2018, I was in a pretty dark place, maybe the darkest I’ve been in my whole life. Without running and physical activity, my identity was stolen,” he said.
This endurance athlete didn’t give up. In early 2018, Krar began to run again. In May, when he returned to racing, “Every step was a mental challenge, to fight the fear that the next step might send me back to surgery.”
In August, he placed 14th in the Leadville 100 MTB bike race. Seven days later came the Leadville Trail 100-Mile Run, which Krar had won in 2014. He decided to try again.
“It was a calculated risk,” he said. “I knew it could be my last race, but I had confidence in my strength coach and the surgery, and I was ready for the next challenge.”
Unsure how the race would go, Krar asked his friend Buck Blankenship to be ready to pace him for the final miles. But as the race went along, he felt his yearlong recovery culminating in a “magical” day on the trail. So he called on Blankenship to join in, as a pacer but mainly “because I wanted to share this experience with someone.”
When he broke the tape in 15:51:57, Krar set a new personal record for the race. But what I admire most is the fact that, standing in front of a crowd, he didn’t take the credit, either for the win or for his remarkable recovery. Instead, he thanked his wife, Christina Bauer; his crew, including Team Run Flagstaff’s Erin Strout; his medical team; and the Flagstaff running community for bringing him all the way back to the sport he loves.
“My goal in any ultra is to run to my potential.”