As a member of the medical community and as an avid distance runner, Amsterdam High School graduate Jake Krong is consumed these days with trials and trails.
“The last couple of years I’ve taken to trail running,” said Krong, who for the last decade has resided in Salt Lake City with his wife Andrea. “My passion is being fit and being in the mountains, and it’s a great way to scratch that itch. I’m 15 miles from a trail head.”
Krong is still winning races like he did as a teen with the Rams, and in the professional world, the 36-year-old doing his part to win another, far more serious race.
“I’m still helping people, but my job changed three or four months ago,” Krong said.
As a member of the Intermountain Healthcare staff, the Colgate University grad is currently managing logistics for clinical trials being used in COVID-19 treatments. He previously served as an operations manager in the company’s liver and kidney transplant and research unit.
“We are partnering with pharmaceutical companies to deliver care to patients, and we are tracing outcomes,” Krong said. “It’s a whole new ballgame trying different therapeutics.”
The game Krong plays in his time away from the office is different these days, too. Following success as a track and cross country runner and as a marathon man (23rd overall, eighth American, at the 2012 Boston Marathon), he prefers to compete on dirt and rocks while sifting between bushes and trees, covering mile after mile on up and down terrain.
“When he commits to something, nothing stops him from his goal,” said Amsterdam cross country and track coach Stu Palczak, who worked with Krong years ago and still stays in touch with him. “I remember back when he was a senior and he had a disappointing end to his cross country season. We had no indoor track at that time, but he put his mind to it that he was going to have an outstanding outdoor season, and he did. I’ve never seen a kid work so hard at something.”
On June 27, Krong not only won a 41.5-mile trail race in Park City, Utah, but broke the course record by 17 minutes when he crossed the line in five hours and 37 minutes.
“It was a pretty good day,” Krong said.
Covering those 40-plus miles wasn’t easy by any means, yet Krong, who also hikes and skis, thoroughly enjoyed every bit of his venture in elevations that reached 7,000 feet. The week before, he ran a 28-mile mountain race in Logan, Utah, that reached an elevation of 6,000 feet, and, like the three guys in front him, he broke the existing course record.
“The main thing is having fun with what I’m doing,” Krong said. “My message would be, ‘Whatever you’re passionate about, go for it.'”
Krong said running mile after mile — he ran a 50-mile race in Maryland two years ago — is taxing in many ways.
“It’s different than running the mile where it’s, ‘Two laps to go, one lap to go,'” Krong said. “Now it’s, ‘Fifteen miles to go, 10 miles to go.’ It is a challenge mentally to stay engaged at a pretty hard effort level.”
Krong has been passing endurance tests since he began running in high school.
“Like a lot of kids, he started cross country to get in shape for another sport [basketball], and he found that he had a knack for it,” Palczak said.
Krong’s senior year at Amsterdam included victories in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 at the 2002 Big 10 outdoor championship meet. Later on, he took both the 1,600 and 3,200 at the Section II Class A championship meet.
“One of my biggest accomplishments in high school was when I had a rough end to my senior cross country season, and bounced back,” Krong said. “That has always stuck with me.”
Krong said his life changed after his graduation from Colgate, where he majored in biology and twice lettered in cross country.
“After college I got a job with an exercise science lab in Vail, Colorado,” he said. “That’s where I fell in love with mountains, open space and outdoor recreation. That’s also where I met my wife.”
Krong tries to run every day, and in a normal week he’ll spend 20 hours in some form of outdoor physical activity. His wife is often by his side.
“It seems obsessive, but it’s what I like to do,” he said.
Aiding others in the work force is another passion of his.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all what he’s doing,” Palczak said. “If there’s a need, it always seems to find him.”
Reach Jim Schiltz at [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.