By Christian Oberlin
I had breakfast with my wife and visited as we watched television, but this Saturday was different. I was distracted. I kept refreshing the webpage every 20 to 30 minutes. I was trying to time my departure appropriately. I was finally going to have an opportunity to run with Pete Kostelnick. Pete graduated high school in Boone, Iowa, but the man has he gone places. He has twice won the Badwater Ultramarathon which is a 135 mile foot race through Death Valley in July. As a matter of fact, he is the current course record holder, finishing in 21 hours 56 minutes and 32 seconds. However, that’s not the only record, Pete holds.
Arguably, his most notable record is his run across the United States. In 2016, Pete ran 3,067 miles from San Francisco to New York City in 42 days, 6 hours, and 30 minutes, smashing the previous record set in 1980 by over 4 days. To pull this off, Pete averaged 70 miles a day for the six weeks he was running.
I caught up with Pete on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail between Brandon and Urbana. When I finally saw Pete, he was pushing his trademark three wheel stroller with food, spare parts, camping supplies, and other necessities and moving along at a ten minute a mile pace even though he was nearly 3,800 miles into his 5,300 mile journey from Kenai, Alaska to Key West, Florida. He was accompanied by Grant, another local runner. His father trailed behind on a bicycle. As the trail crossed, gravel roads I met Pete’s sister Ann who was leading friends and family in a caravan that was checking in on Pete.
Pete said the trail was a nice break from the shoulder of busy highways. He talked about the challenge of finding lodging each night and the fact that he would run each day until he could find a good place to stay. Sometimes that meant staying in hotels, camping, or even being invited to spend the night in someone’s home. To date, the best accommodations were small cabins he had all to himself along the Alaska Highway.
I asked Pete what made him want to run from Kenai, Alaska to Key West, Florida after having broken the transcontinental running record. He said he enjoys thinking up challenges nobody else has done and completing them. He knows one day someone will break his transcontinental record and he didn’t want that to be his only record. Pete also noted he didn’t get to see a lot during his record breaking run across the United States as he would run 70 miles, sleep in an RV on the side of the road, and repeat. This trip has allowed Pete to experience more of the places he runs through.
When asked what he missed the most, other than his family, while he is on the road; Pete said he misses his cats. He was quick to note he is anxious to get back to Ohio and see the new construction home he and his wife have purchased while he’s been out on his current adventure.
When we arrived in Urbana, Joel Rochleau of Hiawatha was waiting for us. I put in a couple more miles after Joel joined us and headed back to my car. Pete is one of the nicest runners I’ve met and is very laid back for such an elite athlete. It was well worth the time to go run with him.