Ultra marathoner Hans Kroese cant get enough of running

by: BENJAMIN GRASS - Hans Kroese of Lake Oswego is shown running in a rugged area of Peru. When he was finished he had run 98 miles in a week and his group raised $14,000 for poor Peruvians.Hans Kroese is a nice, normal, intelligent guy. It’s just that he likes to do such wild and crazy things when it comes to running.

The Lake Oswego resident, via Holland, runs ultra marathons and survives to smile about it.

“The appeal is that I like to push my limits,” Kroese said. “I want to see how far I can take my 51-year-old body.”

Incredibly far, as it turns out. Kroese recently returned from Peru, where he ran three ultra marathons in one week. Ultra marathons are typically 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) or 100 kilometers (about 62 miles), as well as distances of 50 or 100 miles. The thought of running so far makes Kroese happy.

“I actually ran 98 miles in Peru,” he said. “I ran five more miles after I ran the marathons, then I basically collapsed. I ran out of fuel. Oh, yeah, I’m very glad I did it. I feel ready to run again.”

Kroese’s history as a long-distance runner is quite unusual because he didn’t start going to extremes until he passed the age of 40. At age 22 he ran a marathon in Paris in 1982 and had a lousy time.

“I thought, ‘No more! I will never do this again!’” Kroese said.

However, 10 years ago he changed his mind.

“I was 41 years old and raising two kids,” he said. “I thought I had better get in shape.”

Kroese got his inspiration from the incredible Dean Karnazes, who makes other extreme runners seem sluggish.

“Dean had such a passion for running,” Kroese said. “He made me believe I could push my limits. The human body is capable of much more than we think, even at an advanced age.

“The key to running ultra marathons is getting used to your pain and rating your pain; if it’s good pain or bad pain. Bad pain is something torn or tissue damage.”

Good pain helps Kroese psych himself up. by: BENJAMIN GRASS - There seems to  be no running challenge that can daunt Hans Kroese. He is coming off one of the most satisfying events of his life at Bridging the Divide in Peru.

“I have a mantra when I run: This is not real. Tame the beast. Quitting is forever,” he said. “The more pain you have, the better you feel later. You’re full of endorphins.”

For Peru, however, Kroese had his best motivation ever for running. He competed in an event called “Bridging the Divide,” which supports Health Bridges International. Runners began the race by starting in a community on the edge of society — in a squatter village or invasion settlement. In the process they make money and raise awareness to help poor Peruvians to attain running water, electricity or medical care, thus closing gap with wealthier Peruvians.

For Kroese, being a fundraiser was more difficult than running an ultra marathon.

“I had never raised money before, and I had a very, very hard time doing it,” Kroese said. “But I was drawing attention to all of this disparity. People would say, ‘You’re going through all of this torture. I think I’ll give you a few bucks.’ I raised $4,000 and the group of five runners I was with raised $14,000.”

Now that he has a cause, Kroese has more reason to run long distances than ever. Meanwhile, he is finding even more ways to run long distances. His wife, Ania, recently introduced him to the joys of barefoot running.

“The corporate advocates have not taken over barefoot running,” Kroese said. “It’s very minimalist. It reawakens you to your humanity and connects you to nature.”

Kroese’s career is strenuous too. He is a physical therapist at Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center who treats running-related foot, ankle and neurological injuries — showing the same passion for getting other people in shape that he does for himself. For fun, Kroese goes out at midnight, while his wife and sons are snoozing in bed, and runs the eight miles around Oswego Lake. He sleeps a mere three or four hours a night, saying, “When you run a lot you don’t need as much sleep.”

Kroese is now in training for a 100-mile race in his native Holland. Can there be any distance barriers he cannot break?

Well, his hero Dean Karnazes once ran across the entire American continent, a distance of 3,000 miles. Kroese laughs at the thought of approaching such a monumental feat.

But then again, “I hope so!” Kroese said.

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