Get to know Pete Kostelnick

By Matt Forsman A.K.A. Marathon Matt, September 02, 2016

Most runners manage about 20-30 miles of running a week. This kind of mileage is what Pete Kostelnick averages per day when he trains. A peak week of training for Pete can surpass 200 miles.

It’s a staggering number. It’s hard to comprehend. It’s lunacy.

But, it’s often said there’s a thin line between genius and madness. It seems Pete walks (ahem..runs) this line on the regular. Pete’s latest endeavor firmly straddles this line.

Pete’s going after a world record. He’s looking to cover 3,100 miles in 44 days. Pete’s aiming to break the Guinness World Record for "Fastest Crossing of America on Foot (male.)"

To achieve this goal, he’s got to notch about 70 miles a day. At first glance, this sounds impossible. But, consider the fact that independent of the staggering mileage Pete logs on a weekly basis, he’s conquered some pretty staggering races.

Pete managed to win the Badwater 135 in 2015 and 2016. For the uninitiated, this race is characterized as ‘the most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet.’ The race takes place in July, starts in Death Valley, and ends at Whitney Portal.

What this means is you’re looking at temperatures well into the 90’s early in the day and highs closing in on 120. Badwater covers three mountain ranges for a total of 14,600’ (4450m) of cumulative vertical ascent and 6,100’ (1859m) of cumulative descent.

If Pete a race this demanding two years in a row, breaking a world record seems not entirely implausible. Read on to get to know more about Pete and the incredible journey he is about to attempt starting on Mon, 9/12 in San Francisco.

Have you always been a runner? How did you get into the sport? 

I didn't run much until I was a junior in high school, when I finally decided to sign up for cross-country.  I love to hike "14ers" in Colorado and it was while hiking Mt. Elbert with my uncle one summer that he encouraged me to sign up for cross country.

I ran cross country my senior year as well, going from a back of the pack runner to a respectable 18-19 minute 5k harrier.  But, I never ran times that would raise any eyebrows. 

What does a 'typical' week of training look like for you?

In peak training mode I often approach or surpass 200 miles in a week.  I do roughly half (sometimes more) of my miles on a treadmill, which I've noticed keeps my legs a bit fresher than doing everything on pavement.

I do most of my training miles at a 7:30-8:45 pace, which has become very comfortable.  I usually run before and after work so typically the only 20+ mile runs I do in one workout are saved for the weekends, where I'll often do 30-60 mile runs.

I usually don't plan for off-days anymore, and take them only when traveling or my schedule doesn't allow for any running.

Is there 'one' singular running accomplishment you can point to that stands out above all others? 

Placing 1st at Badwater this year for the second year in a row and doing it in course record time was something I'm still trying to fully grasp.

I think I was more excited about my 1st place after finishing in 2015, but this year had a lot more emotion invested in it.  I overcame a lot this year from a health standpoint and I wasn't even sure if I'd be able to race at all this year in April.

I executed my race strategy to perfection as well.

Do you have any special tips/tricks you'd like to share with our runners?

If you want to do something, do it now and don't wait.  Take that first step, which is always the hardest!

So many times we want to do something and keep putting it off and then it never happens when other things in life come up.  Dive in, make mistakes, and learn from them.  

Running (and ultrarunning in particular) is all about learning from mistakes, and figuring out how to keep your mind, stomach, and legs all working together.

What is your motivation for running 3,100 miles in 44 days?

I love pushing myself to the extreme and I love traveling the US! I'm the youngest of five and every summer my parents would pack us all in a van and we'd drive to various destinations in the US (even Alaska).

Needless to say, I've now been to every state and nearly all of them via the road. The only state I haven’t traveled to by road is Hawaii, where I honeymooned with my wife.  I love the open road and all the towns, people, and sights this country has to offer.

Some of my best memories are from those trips my parents took us on. Mixing the adventure I experienced as a child from these road trips with my running is a dream come true.

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