Kara Haas is one of the most accomplished runners in the Merrimack Valley area. Of that there can be no doubt.
The 47-year-old Chelmsford resident has won well north of 100 local races over the past two decades, including the 2007 BayState Marathon in Lowell. If you’re familiar with the local running community, you know who she is.
But over the last three years, Haas’ gracious and humble presence has been missing from the local running scene. She has been bothered by a hip labral tear that had been causing too much discomfort and dysfunction to run through on flat land or unforgiving pavement. Thus, she hasn’t been competing.
However, these days, Haas is feeling a lot better, to the point that running a 5K straight uphill on softer ground doesn’t seem to bother her at all.
Earlier this month, she returned to competition and was the women’s winner at the 32nd annual Cranmore Hill Climb in North Conway, N.H. She won the race, just her third competition in the last year, on a blistering 90-degree day.
“I was kind of surprised,” Haas said. “I’ve been feeling really good, been doing a lot of strength training with (running and training coach) Anna Willard Grenier, trying to get my hip as strong as it can be.”
Haas continued her strong running this past Sunday when she took on the grueling Loon Mountain U.S. National Championships race, a 6.6-mile trek. She finished as the fourth master runner in a very competitive field.
Haas has been focusing more on trail running and has been performing CrossFit training with Willard Grenier for conditioning.
“It’s super-fun, but it’s also really difficult,” Haas said. “I think I fell over the first time I did a box jump.”
Haas, originally from Westford, didn’t run track or cross country at the high school level; she was more interested in basketball. Still, she’d often go on six-mile runs with her dad for exercise. When she got to Saint Anselm College, the 5-foot-8 Haas decided running was a better fit for her than basketball and she became a successful collegiate runner.
She became a staple on the local running circuit after she graduated. That, of course, was until the hip injury got the best of her.
“It was frustrating because nobody could really pinpoint what was wrong,” Haas said. “It wasn’t so much that I was having pain as I was having dysfunction. Finally, it came down to the hip was just acting up. The cartilage was torn and it was arthritic. Really just wear and tear from 30 years of running.”
For someone who not only excels at running but also thoroughly enjoys it, it was very difficult for Haas to take a long hiatus and significantly limit her running regimen.
But now she’s feeling much better and has been getting lots of runs in at the Nashoba Valley Ski Area in Westford. She’s excited for more trail races and the cross country series this fall.
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