At first glance, the image of a long-haired, Christ-like American sat in the boot of his rusty truck conforms to all abiding stereotypes about new-age hippies and “spiritual awakening” e.t.c, e.t.c… And that is, indeed, the image that Anton Krupicka, one of the foremost ultra-marathon trail runners in the world, seems happy to convey. However, beneath the relaxed, easy-going exterior, is a gritty determination that has pushed the 31-year-old Nebraskan to victories in some of the toughest ultra races on the planet.
Growing up surrounded by the trails and back-roads of the Nebraska hills, it is perhaps no surprise that, by the age of 11, Krupicka was a running enthusiast. A desire to do well in the Presidential Physical Fitness Test one-mile run led the fifth grader to run one mile every day. He never stopped. A year on, before the dawn of chest hair, he completed his first marathon. His competitive trail-running career, however, truly blossomed after graduating from college.
The mountains of Colorado Springs – his new home after high school – provided the free-spirited Krupicka with the perfect playground for honing his ever-growing trail running potential. Then, in 2006, came two big breakthroughs, as he smashed successive course records by winning the Estes Park Marathon and High Mountain 50K, before storming to victory in the esteemed Leadville 100 – 100 miles through the infamously wild Colorado Rockies – a race he was only persuaded to enter after a local shop owner recommended it. The following year, he completed the race in the second fastest time ever, 3hrs, 15mins ahead of his nearest rival. The new kid on the trail had become the man to beat.
Since then, he has catapulted himself into the trail running hall of fame. 2010, in particular, was a phenomenal year, by anyone’s standards. In May, he pipped Mike Wardian to victory at San Francisco’s Miwok 100K in a time of 8hrs, 02mins, 51secs – the second fastest time in history. One month on, he achieved another second fastest time ever (15hrs, 13minutes, 53secs) in the seminal and grueling Western States 100. Then, in July, he went on to win the White River 50 – bettering his victory in the previous year by setting a course record of 6hrs, 25mins, 29secs.
Other notable victories include the Rocky Raccoon 100, the Collegiate Peaks 50 and the High Mountain 50K. You only have to look at the race names to get an understanding of the difficulty involved and, indeed, the indefatigable nature of the man.
Krupicka’s easy-going persona (he lives in his truck for six months of the year) belies a resolute mindset. However, he does admit to easing off his training in recent years: dropping down from 200 miles a week to a mere jog-in-the-park-140.
For Anton Krupicka, trail running is a form of escapism – time spent away from the materialism and stress of everyday life. He doesn’t bother himself with the heart rate monitors, watches or other technological ‘essentials’ that are steadily flooding in to the trail running world. A lot of the time, in fact, he doesn’t even wear a top.
It’s all-too-easy to dismiss such minimalism as arrogance, but the simple fact is that Krupicka’s approach works. His back-to-basics philosophy is infectious and refreshing. At a time when runners are under increasing pressure to spend big, Krupicka continues to fly the flag for minimalism, in what should be the most accessible sport around.