I’m still fairly new to cross-country skiing, but one name I learned early on was that of endurance athlete Bob Baker. First I was told, he’s known as “Bad Bob.” Second, I learned for a long time he dominated endurance skiing events, such skiing the thousand mile courses of the Iditarod and Yukon Quest sled dog races. He is the founder and longtime organizer of the Sonot Kkaazoot, Fairbanks’ 50 kilometer spring time Nordic Ski event. Lastly, he’s participated in the grueling Equinox Marathon 38 times, this year most recently.
But this year was different. As you’ll hear, Bob suffered a massive heart attack running a different event three months before the Equinox. He collapsed without a pulse after finishing first in his heat in the Jim Loftus Mile. Luckily several physicians and a defibrillator were handy. After a successful bypass surgery, many thought he’d sit out the Equinox this year. But that isn’t how Bad Bob Baker rolls.
As I have come to know him in the last few years, I also discovered he’s tied into a remarkably tight knit network of friends. Many of those friendships were forged at Lathrop High School in the early 70s. On top of that foundation, he and his wife Sharon can be found volunteering at most of the youth track and ski events, encouraging new generations of athletes.
In this first of a two-part discussion, I began by asking Bad Bob about crossing the finish line at this year’s Equinox.