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The high desert sweltered as crispy chaparral struggled to provide shade for much more than some dusty footprints along the trail. Waiting for runners was like being on the Mars Rover, scrutinizing a washed-out, hilly landscape for signs of life.
Suddenly, a steady movement slashed the dead space.
Legs spinning wildly, shoulders back, chest puffed, the figure flew down the mountain as if pulled by a leash.
He was slight in stature, shirtless and bearded, and he zoomed in and out of the aid station several minutes ahead of the pack. It was shocking and impressive, until it made sense.
“I think that was Rob Krar,” someone whispered.
Ultimately, Krar finished the 2019 Leona Divide 50K in California in first place, in a time of 3:53.
But this is to be expected when Rob Krar enters a race. Certainly a 50K. Especially this one.
Krar, now 42, is still the course-record holder for the Leona Divide 50-miler, which he won back in 2013. That performance put the former collegiate track star on the ultra map and earned him a coveted spot at the oldest and, arguably, most prestigious 100-mile event in the country: Western States.
Krar went on to earn a second-place finish at States, despite never having toed the line at a 100-mile distance. In fact, he ran his first 50-miler only two months prior—at Leona Divide.
“If Rob Krar’s name’s on the start list, you have to take that seriously,” says the accomplished ultrarunner Dylan Bowman, who set the previous course record at Leona Divide just one year before Krar bested it by seven minutes. “He will rarely go out and race if he’s not primed.”
Krar won Western States the following year with a time of 14:53. (That’s sub-nine-minute miles with nearly 18,000 feet of elevation gain.) He has hovered at the top of ultra standings since 2014, the year he proceeded to crush three 100-mile races in a single summer, beginning with that first-place finish at States, then wins at Leadville and Run Rabbit Run. His victories have earned him the coveted title Ultra Runner of the Year—twice.
“Rob has been one of the best [ultrarunners] of my generation, potentially one of the best of all time,” adds Bowman.
Running has given Rob Krar a life he never dreamed of.
And—with one step—he almost lost it.