It can take all of a few minutes to make a connection on a trail run. Through the simple act of acknowledging one another, sharing movement in nature, and peeling back the layers of oneself and existing only in moments and miles, total strangers come together with a unique quickness.
This life force of the ultrarunning community travels just as beautifully through Rob Krar Ultra Camps, the most recent of which took shape over a long, scenic weekend this October in Flagstaff, AZ.
Rob and his wife, Christina, good friends and the local community graciously welcomed 10 campers from all parts of the country including Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Missouri, Washington, Nevada and New Mexico, as well as Canada. Joined by special guests Hillary Allen and Maggie Guterl, they explored classic trails in the red rocks of Sedona, fall colors of the San Francisco Peaks, and moonscape terrain of S P Crater; ate delicious homemade and local food; shared amazing life stories; and learned from some of the best, and each other.
Whether it’s the winter, summer or fall camp, Rob says campers typically arrive with a certain level of anxiety about what to expect, largely because of his recognition in the sport. But he’s quick to shred any sign of ego and elitism among his peers.
“One of the biggest challenges we have—the most common email I get is, ‘Hey Rob, I’m a beginner, or I’m an intermediate, or I’ve run TransRockies Run, or I’ve run a 50k—I just don’t know if I’m good enough to be at your camp.’ Not once have I encouraged someone to come, and they come and not had an amazing experience,” Rob says.
At the start of camp, any doubt that campers might be in the wrong place or aren’t good enough to participate because of their ability level is erased. It’s not about experience; it’s about “the” experience. Beginners and intermediates are actually encouraged to attend because they have the most to gain … and because Rob loves watching them soak it all up.
“It’s a balance. It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s more about the experience,” he says. “It’s about great food, sharing our home with strangers, introducing them to our best friends in town, and sharing my favorite trails. It’s the whole package.”
Rob and Christina, whom he credits as a positive driving force for his trail and ultrarunning journey, started the camps back in the summer of 2015 as a way to utilize his success and platform to give back to the communities that have also supported his career.
“I felt that I was welcome with open arms into the ultra and trail running community,” Rob says. “It’s different than any other, and for me, it’s the best fit. I feel most comfortable. I can be myself.”
By inviting the trail and ultrarunning community into this one-of-a-kind setting that educates and inspires through a shared love of the sport, he hopes campers will take the energy they discover from their experience on the trails, time in Flagstaff, and each other and pay it forward in their own lives.
Rob’s message is also one of encouraging people to “run for the right reasons.” Having come from previous running lives where he ran for the wrong reasons, he says that he now runs for himself, and that simply getting out the door and outside has improved his life.
“I finish those runs a better person and hopefully inspire other people to do the same,” he says.
Since discovering trail and ultrarunning, he’s also accepted a vocal role in telling his own story of dealing with depression, which he says has helped so many people and has been eye-opening.
And just as inspiration is drawn from the achievements and stories of elite athletes like Rob, so much of the inspiration that breathes life into the trail and ultrarunning community comes from the stories of the everyday runner. Those with family who juggle full-time jobs, relationships, kids, and are passionate and driven to run. These people are the campers, the ones who in turn inspire Rob, and their energy is everywhere.
“You’re surrounded by it,” Rob says. “As much as the people winning the races—actually, more common than not, it’s not the people winning races—it’s the everyday people with incredible stories and who have overcome incredible odds to be out on the trails, in nature, inspiring others and paying it forward.”
And then there’s the food.
Running aside, one of the many camp highlights is Christina’s food. (Jokes are constantly made that they’re really all about her excellent, healthy cooking.) Each camp is marked by welcome and farewell dinners at Rob and Christina’s home, and from start to finish, the script flips. At the beginning, there’s a certain unease that comes with lacing up one’s shoes to run alongside an admired athlete. But as the moments and miles pile up, that feeling fades away, and what remains is a powerful human bond.
“It’s just so crazy to me that people come here and it’s interesting to see that first dinner and see the discomfort, the nervousness,” he says,” and then literally three nights later, it’s like everybody has known each other for years and they’re such good friends.”
Just as the campers open up, Rob opens up. He opens up his world, which has made the camps such a success and positive experience, and so much more than he ever thought. In just three shorts days, people from all walks of life arrive strangers to this spot in the Southwest, and leave friends connected.
“I don’t have a checklist. I guess my biggest hope is they leave happy, and that it was maybe not a life-altering experience but one they’ll never forget, and that they’ll carry that energy forward,” Rob says. “And I’ve said it a couple times and it sounds so corny, but make that tiny little bit of change in the world for good, because we need it right now.”
To learn more about Rob Krar Ultra Camps, click here.