WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 21, 2019 —
Racing through Washington D.C. on an unusually hot and humid autumn day, he spots mile-marker seven. Only three miles left to the finish line. He’s on his own amongst a horde of sweaty runners moving shoulder-to-shoulder, each trying to edge out the person next to them. He’s stranded, shuffling under a blanket of body heat as they charge down the course. In an instant, he’s down.
Cold air and fluorescent lights greet him as he is jarred into consciousness. Confused, yet overwhelmed with intense lethargy, he tries to answer the nurse’s questions. What’s your name? Where are you from? Who can we call? And as quickly as he awoke, he is knocked right back out again.
On Oct. 7, 2018, Wisconsin native U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Nick Krause, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 210th Aviation Regiment, 128th Aviation Brigade CH-47 helicopter repairer instructor writer, participated in the annual Army Ten-Miler race with high hopes of knocking out yet another long-distance run as he had done many times before. Krause had spent years honing his skills as an avid runner through numerous 5K, 10K and half marathon runs. But this race would prove to be life-altering.
“I had been training for the Army Ten-Miler, but I didn’t think too much of it because I had just done a half marathon six months prior,” Krause said. “I remember running around a corner and feeling a curtain of hot, humid air. I think that took more out of me than I was expecting.”
Krause said he performed his typical routine of stretching, walking and drinking copious amounts of water the day before and woke up confident and ready to conquer yet another distance race.
“I saw mile-marker seven and then I woke up in a hospital bed labeled as a John Doe,” Krause explained. “According to my GPS watch, I stopped at about eight and a quarter miles so I’ve got more than a mile of just blackout. My body was still going in the race but I have no memory of it.”
The 30-year-old was hospitalized for more than four days recovering from the collapse while falling in and out of consciousness as hospital personnel worked to identify their nameless patient.
Krause explained that typically, he would run with at least one friend, but he had just been assigned to Fort Eustis and had yet to meet anyone who was interested in participating in the race with him. Hospital personnel were unable to locate the Common Access Card that was safety pinned on the inside of his clothes. So with no one to identify him and a lost ID, Krause remained labeled as John Doe for nearly 36 hours until he was able to recover enough to eventually remember his mother’s phone number.
“When I woke up long enough to talk, I thought it was 2015 and President Obama was in office,” Krause continued. “I couldn’t even tell you how to spell my first name. It was bad. This could’ve happened anywhere, but it happened to me when there were medics all over the place. Had it happened anywhere else, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation today.”
Ultimately, Krause was diagnosed with heatstroke and rhabdomyolysis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heatstroke is the most serious form of heat injury and occurs when the body temperature reaches 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Rhabdomyolysis causes muscle tissue breakdown which releases proteins and electrolytes into the blood stream causing heart and kidney damage.
“My body was definitely on its way to shutting down,” Krause said. “My body temperature reached 106 degrees that day and my liver wasn’t fully functioning until the end of January. In the weeks following my hospital release I was doing routine check-ups, lab work and monitoring my liver. I had to establish a new normal for myself.”
Part of his new normal included joining the Joint Base Langley-Eustis Army Ten-Miler Team. Since the incident, Krause tries to always have a running partner and if he can’t find anyone, he always lets a loved one know when he is running, which route he is taking and what time he is expected to be back.
Krause now shares his story with fellow Soldiers to raise awareness about heatstroke risk factors and safety precautions that should be taken to prevent an incident like this from happening to anyone else. He also has started wearing an emergency contact wrist band during every run and has inspired others to wear them as well.
“What’s scary is, he did everything right and what happened to him could’ve easily happened to anyone who was on that course,” said Capt. Kevin Bennett, Foxtrot Company, 1st Battalion, 222nd Aviation Regiment, 128th Aviation Brigade company commander. “As soon as I saw his emergency bracelet, I bought one too and I wear it on every run just like he does. This can be a lesson for everyone and I think it’s inspiring how he speaks to Soldiers about the importance of knowing conditions and knowing your body.”
This year Krause participated in the Army Ten-Miler race with his teammates, including Bennett. He spoke of an inexplicable urge to finish the Washington D.C. race and a need to finish what he started.
“I waited an entire year to finish this race,” Krause said. “Every step after the 8.25 mile-marker was a step toward redemption. I can now say that I completed the Army Ten-Miler and I have closed that part of my life.”
Exactly one year and one week since he fought his life-changing battle, Krause sprinted toward the Pentagon and crossed the finish line he had been chasing for more than a year. He had redeemed himself.