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The race director greeted me as I walked up to the two orange cones that marked a starting line in Telluride Town Park. His event would begin in 15 minutes, but only a small number of runners were hanging out. I recognized no one, thank goodness. I didn’t want anyone I know to witness my potential blowup.

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You have questions, he has answers. We recently interviewed the elite trail runner Rob Krar, winner of the 2015 Western States 100 Endurance Run, 2015 Run Rabbit Run, 2015 Leadville 100 and 2018 Leadville 100. Beyond his trail mastery, Krar is known for being open about his depression and life struggles. Here is our version of “Ask Me Anything” with Krar.

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Taking my place on a blanket surrounded by bags and coolers, I immediately learned the most prevalent aspect of any crewing experience: waiting.

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Rene Villalobos is less than halfway through the 2016 Rocky Raccoon 100 in Huntsville State Park, Texas, when the pain in his back returns. A year earlier, he had fallen on a patch of black ice late at night during Arkansas’ Run LOVit 100K and slipped a disk. The doctors told him he wouldn’t be able to run long distance anymore but, well, here he was.He grimaces as pain shoots up his back. Soon the sun will sink beneath the canopy of oak trees and sweet gums overhead and out of sight. Villalobos uses a few unprintable words to gripe to his “friend” Sal (James Salvador), an Italian ultrarunner who encouraged Villalobos to quit dropping the F-bomb on long miserable runs and find the joy in running.

“Look at this and this and this,” he would tell Villalobos, pointing at the scenery. “And don’t worry about anything else. Enjoy it! This is all a gift.”

Salvador had passed away nearly 10 years prior, in April 2002, during a low-risk planned surgery. He and Villalobos had been running together for 20 years by that time, and were planning to run several ultras together in the coming weeks. Instead, Villalobos found himself and his sister, Clara, with Salvador’s family as the priest read his last rites.

Villalobos says he’s “not really too much into superstition.” He doesn’t have pre-race rituals or lucky socks. But he does have a lot of running buddies like Salvador who have passed away over the years, and he still communicates with them.

“That’s probably about the weirdest thing I do,” he says. “I always say, ‘Well, I’m going to take my angels for a run today.’”

Miles on Miles

Rene Villalobos (who pronounces his name “Rain-E,” with a delightful Texan twang), 59, of Fort Worth, Texas, is not your typical runner-looking dude. He has dark skin, bronzed by hours in the sun, salt-and-pepper hair and a goatee to match; until a few years ago, he weighed over 200 pounds and possessed a hefty paunch.But looks may be deceiving in his case. Villalobos has run over 350 ultras, and over 150 100-milers. At one point, he ran nine 100-mile races in nine weeks. Counting unofficial races, by August 14, 2018 Villalobos says he had run 1,117 marathons. On the Mega Marathon List, he is ranked number five, with 1000 official marathon finishes. Let those stats sink in.

“Trying to explain Rene is almost as difficult as trying to explain trail running,” says Joe Prusaitis, the former longtime owner and race director of Tejas Trails, a collection of respected Texas races that includes Rocky Raccoon. Prusaitis has a long history of racing with and hosting Villalobos at races. “And I think the more you understand trail running, the more you would understand Rene.”

While not a household name or podium contender, Villalobos epitomizes a passionate approach to trail running. His training weeks might make even the pros blanch (see page 62 for Villalobos’s weekly running schedule), especially because, for over 30 years, he worked digging ditches and fixing pipes as a plumber, often in 110-degree Texas heat, before going on his weekday runs.

Things changed in 2004 when he got a job as Master Inspector for his hometown of Fort Worth. While he appreciates the air conditioning, being what he calls a “blue-collar runner” makes him proud, and he still does plumbing jobs for friends on the side.
“Once a plumber always a plumber,” he says. “Kind of like once a runner …”

Villalobos’ house is spartan—there’s no TV and few wall decorations.

“You know what minimize is?” Villalobos asks. “That’s me. Anything I have over a year, I get rid of it.”

The exceptions are his race bibs, including marathon-and-under bibs and medals, dispersed throughout his home like tiny monuments to his countless miles.

True Grit

During the 2016 Rocky Raccoon, Villalobos is using his best sailor mouth to complain to his angels, and “they just sit there laughing,” he says. “They’re probably saying, you paid for it, you dummy, why you out there? You ain’t got nobody to blame but yourself.”The Rocky Raccoon is made up of four 25-mile loops. It’s getting dark by the time volunteers and spectators catch sight of a Hispanic guy using a thick stick as a cane, moving slowly into the clearing. He’s obviously struggling—his stride is off, and he’s using the stick only halfway into the race. But he doesn’t stop. Villalobos hobbles back into the woods for his third lap, and, when he emerges again, he goes right on for the fourth.

Volunteers watch with concern and hope. The finish line looks increasingly like a ghost town as people pack up and go home.

In the woods, Villalobos repeatedly thumps the stick beside him like a third leg, occasionally griping to Sal, when no one else is around. He shuffles down the singletrack, over little wooden bridges, through brush and pine needles and endless roots as the sun rises.

“Pine trees and roots, that’s all it is,” Villalobos says. “What happens is you do four laps, and on the last lap all the roots have grown a foot.”

When he exits toward the finish for the last time, he is hunched over his stick, barely taking steps. He looks like he’s aged several years in a single night. In the miles since the last aid station, he’s fallen 20 minutes behind the cut-off time.

But he has “finished.” Racers and volunteers have tears in their eyes as he crosses the line. He doesn’t get an official finish time, but the race organizers give him a finisher’s belt, “because they said I was tough,” Villalobos says.

“When he sets out to do something, he just finishes it,” Villalobos’s running buddy Gerardo (Gerry) Ramirez says. “We’ve been through some races, in snow, like knee-deep snow, races where we’re drenched in mud; we’ve been hailed on, but I’ve learned not to give up because of him.”

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I’m not saying my wife ran out on me, my Chevy died and I got thrown by a bull. But as if in a country-music song, pretty much everything else went wrong at a trail 100 in Colorado cowboy country.

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“The same mountains. The same hut system. We both grew up in New England. We both went to Middlebury College.

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Within the first 24 hours of her 136-mile Annapurna Circuit mission, Suzanne “Sunny” Stroeer had to go to the well. She’d only started the Himalayan mountain loop 48 hours after the thought of running it first crossed her mind. To have a shot at the women’s Fastest-Known Time (FKT—the standing record was 4 days 14 hours 43 minutes), Stroeer knew she needed to cover more than 40 miles of the bone-chilling, quad-burning, high-altitude terrain by the end of her second day.

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Jon Glaser, a comedian you may know from shows such as Parks and Recreation, Late Night With Conan O’Brien or Girls, has debuted a new show dedicated to the absurdity of the gear culture: Jon Glaser Loves Gear. The catch is, Glaser, 50, of Brooklyn, New York, is actually gear obsessed.

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Mirna Valerio (aka “The Mirnavator”) has been writing her “Fat Girl Running” blog, about being an “active larger girl in a thinner world,” since 2011, but it wasn’t until recently that the popularity of her blog, and her voice, has skyrocketed. Valerio has been interviewed for Runner’s World, People, The Huffington Post, NBC Nightly News and National Geographic (just to name a few), and now writes for Women’s Health magazine. An ultrarunner, high-school Spanish teacher and cross-country coach, Valerio recently authored a book, A Beautiful Work in Progress.

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As a trail runner and mountaineer, Kilian Jornet has set numerous records and fastest known times (FKTs) over the past 10 years. In recent years, he’s won the Western States … Continue reading "Getting the Dirt from Kilian Jornet"

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An average training day for Camille Herron might include eating a burger, dancing to Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On” in the car and a run along a winding mountain trail, her … Continue reading "Camille Herron’s Comeback"

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Dragonflies flitted above weary runners lying in the grass within the Placer High School track like forgotten rag dolls. Families braved the heat to support their broken-down kin, bringing water, … Continue reading "Wisdom"

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Pro photo tip 3/3. From Issue 129 of Trail Runner magazine, the Photo Issue. Randall Levensaler is the Art Director at Trail Runner magazine. Variety is the spice of life. When shooting for … Continue reading "Pro Photo Tip: By Randall Levensaler"

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Today, the calm of the Monkey Temple and historical Patan. It’s a day of noise, colour and amazing people as the ETR runners relax and soak in the beauty of this magical area. The Monkey Temple *’Swayambhunath’  is an ancient …

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EVEREST TRAIL RACE, Nepal “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade …

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Logan Polfuss embraced adventure and pushed boundaries day-in-and-day out. He preferred taking calculated risks to making empty excuses. But on October 18, 2018, Polfuss had his last earthly adventure. His … Continue reading "Following Skydiving Tragedy, Friends Remember Trail Runner Logan Polfuss"

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Though he has since gone on to compete in legendary races like Western States and Hawaii’s HURT, as well as a month of self-supported running in Tasmania, 35-year-old ultrarunner and Arc’teryx … Continue reading "Punishment to Magic"

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Under a gibbous moon in the dry desert of Kanab, Utah, Jax Mariash climbed, hand over hand, up a pink sand dune. Then another. Then another. She climbed up and … Continue reading "Jax Mariash Continues to Take the Stage"

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Crowds flocked to the small town of Keswick in northern England Sunday, July 8, to watch Kilian Jornet break the most famous and arguably the toughest record in British fell … Continue reading "Kilian Smashes Bob Graham Record"

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“I didn’t like running at first, I really didn’t. I don’t know many people that actually do love it right from the get-go.”—Gina Lucrezi Lucrezi, founder of Trail Sisters, a … Continue reading "Watch: Gina Lucrezi, of Trail Sisters"

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  What makes a good trail-running photo? Bring a flexible mind and eye. Do your homework on locations and lighting, be ready to adapt to conditions, light and athletes and … Continue reading "Pro Photo Tip: By Fred Marmsater"

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Since hitting newsstands September 1, 2018, our September/October issue has been under some scrutiny for our “Top Trail Race Bucket List” article, regarding the lack of women featured in the … Continue reading "A Woman’s Place"

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There’s a breed of trail runner not only finishing out front at nationally competitive races, they’re raising their children along the way. The challenge of being a mom may not … Continue reading "Moms on the Run"

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PatitucciPhoto is the unique combination of Dan and Janine Patitucci’s vision as professional photographers and mountain-sport athletes producing content for the global outdoor industry. Based in the Swiss Alps, Dan … Continue reading "Pro Photo Tip: By Dan Patitucci of Patitucci Photo"

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By the time I reached the 1,700-foot climb up a ski slope, reality hit. I’d gone out too fast. Coming in ahead of schedule, I had missed my crew. And, … Continue reading "Lack of Fuel"

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As we departed from his car, Ted Winters, 78, hunched over, shuffled with determination toward the trailhead, saying, “It ain’t gonna be speedy, but we’re gonna get there.” We were … Continue reading "Ted Winters’ Long Run"

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When Shaun Martin talks about running, he first addresses the “why.” “We run first to celebrate life,” he says, “to celebrate all the things the great ancestors have blessed us … Continue reading "The “Why”"

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“If you’re reading this you just got PASSED by our Grampy.” Thousands of runners are reading this statement, originally printed on the back of a shirt made for Gerald Bailey … Continue reading "2018 Trail Runner Trophy Series Update"

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Going on this week in Chamonix, France, is the largest gathering of trail runners in the world. More than 30,000 runners, family and friends are in the famed alpine valley … Continue reading "The UTMB through the Eyes of its Creators—Part 1"

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38-year-old Megan Kimmel, of Carbondale, Colorado has been running trails for eighteen years and racing for ten. And the woman will not slow down. At this last weekend’s Pikes Peak … Continue reading "How Megan Kimmel Keeps Crushing"

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For the first time in a long, long time. I had a holiday! Those who follow what I do would arguably say, that I am always on holiday as I am constantly travelling to photograph running races all over the …

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“That’s a great way to break a leg!” Mike Micucci and I were trotting down the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, on the side of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, when a hiker … Continue reading "Magnets for Insults"

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Jenny Tough walked through the doors of Kyrgyzstan’s mountaineering office in a bright purple shirt and even brighter teal running shorts, blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. Tough, a … Continue reading "Tough as Nails"

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My new trail-running partner is acting as if he’s in the second half of an ultramarathon and doesn’t want to leave the aid station. Standing at the trailhead, he refuses … Continue reading "Hoofing It"

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“When I first became a professional runner, I thought the hardest part would be the physical training. After all, what could be tougher than running to the top of an … Continue reading "Let Your Mind Run"

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“There will be no lying down above basecamp,” Sunny said matter-of-factly, as we trotted single-file up the barren trail. My headlamp beam cut the darkness in half, perpetually exposing our … Continue reading "Success in Failure"

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It was day 10 and I was broken, hobbling, walking every step, unable to run, 388 miles in and 1,800 miles left to go. The first five days of trail-ambling bliss … Continue reading "North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail"

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Watch a team of ultramarathon runners, including Anna Frost and Tim Olson, journey to Bhutan to set a speed record on the world’s hardest trek. Bhutan’s high Himalayan landscape is … Continue reading "Watch: The Snowman Trek"

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When 27-year-old Filipino Renson Embradura told his parents he had started running they thought he was making things hard for himself. But Renson wanted to show people, including the disabled, … Continue reading "Watch: “The One Legged Runner”"

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On June 28, 2013, Adam Casey left his apartment in downtown San Diego, alone, and drove east on Highway 15, straight into the blistering heat of the Nevada desert. He had one goal for the … Continue reading "To Hell and Back"

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“Generally, they don’t read the directions,” says John Storkamp, of his racers. According to this long-time race director, the job has its share of laughter and tears, similar to being a kindergarten teacher. John is … Continue reading "Race Director John Storkamp Gets Candid"

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Legend has it that Buzz Burrell once hitchhiked 80 miles away from his home in Boulder, Colorado, and ran back on remote trails for two days carrying not much more than a straw and a … Continue reading "Father of the Fastest Known Time"

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Do you know anyone who finished the Oxfam Trailwalker last year in sub 13h, went home to get some sleep, worked for a full shift after waking, then ran a 15km race for his department, and still caught the end of OTW to cheer participants crossing the finish line? If you don’t, you’re about to! […]

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On July 26, 2016, at around 9 a.m., I rolled up to a roadside convenience store in Georgetown, Colorado, hungry and exhausted. I had left my home in Gold Hill, biked roughly 60 miles of … Continue reading "14er’s Self-Propelled"

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The Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run: The horse-race-cum-footrace, from Squaw Valley to Auburn, California, is where legends are born and where runners go to launch themselves into the elite ultrarunning scene. It carries some of … Continue reading "The Cowboys VS Everybody—Even Themselves"

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Every year, there are many a dark-horse article about the next up-and-comer, the fastest trail runner you’ve never heard of, the kid to watch out for. But, seriously, check out Liz Canty’s results on UltraSignup … Continue reading "You Can’t Stop Liz Canty"

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With less than 20 minutes left before the 30-hour cutoff at the 2017 Western States 100, cheers erupted as Scotty Mills reached the Placer High School track in Auburn, California. Blond-haired, with boyish looks and … Continue reading "Old School Hero"

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Evening had fallen, and Pete Ripmaster was alone in the Alaskan wilderness. He was 196 miles into a 1,000-mile Iditarod footrace and had come upon the most dangerous part. It was February 2016. The passage … Continue reading "A Race to Make Even Hardened Ultrarunners Cower"

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