Who: Pete Kostelnick
Age: 29 yrs
Achievement: Broke the fastest foot crossing of America, a world record
The Details: Averaging 72 miles running a day for 42 days, 6 hours, and 30 minutes!
How would you celebrate your 29th birthday? Well, for Pete Kostelnick from Nebraska, it marked the start of a 3000 mile journey across America. Leaving San Fransisco’s City Hall at eight o’clock in the morning, he ran east – attempting to break the world record.
The record for fastest traverse of America by foot has been unbroken since 1980. It was held by Frank Giannino Jr. who did the whole crossing in 46 days, 8 hours, and 36 minutes – from San Francisco to Brooklyn Bridge. He’s held onto the title for 37 years.
Frank Giannino Jr. watched Pete Kostelnick break his record. He wasn’t upset. On the contrary, he thought that his record was on the softer side of hard and was waiting for the right ultrarunner to step up to the mark. He was very impressed that Pete was still running fast – between 9 and 10 minute miles. Frank set the record at a much slower pace, sometimes even walking sections. What gave him a winner was the sheer amount of time he spent on his feet. Only six hours sleep a night and a military routine allowed him to claim that record.
By contrast, Pete would start running at 3 o’clock in the morning most days, knocking off 40 miles before lunchtime. After lunch, he’d continue for another 30 miles or more before clocking off for the day. Because of all the cheating allegations around athletes today, Pete wore two GPS watches (in case one failed) to track the route and prove his achievement. A fellow athlete had dropped out due to cheating allegations already that year.
Of course, Pete was not alone on his ultra-run (doing the equivalent of 3 marathons per day). His four person team drove an RV with water and supplies, that Pete would also sleep in. They’d drive a mile or so past him, then let him catch up and repeat. Not that it was that simple for them. Their RV was written off mid-challenge when another vehicle drove into it in the dark. While his team rushed around trying to find a replacement vehicle, Pete just kept running.
At day 7 out of 42, Pete took a rest day – his only one for the entire challenge. He’d never planned to take any but he was tired, badly sunburnt, feverish and developing tendinitis in one foot. It was time to take a break or risk jeopardising the whole record attempt… and it worked. He got into the rhythm of the run and any other injuries that came up along the way all subsided.
But, in spite of all this, Pete’s final day was the longest. He started his last 87 miles at midnight on Monday October 24 and crossed the finish line that day, smashing the previous record by four days. Many runners joined him for the last stretch, some joining with 40 miles left to spur him on. Along the way he was greeted by crowds and inspired school children, but this was no doubt the best crowd to see: the finish line. Most importantly, his wife was there to meet him, who Pete confessed to have really missed over his 6 week journey.
When asked to comment about his epic journey, he gave a pretty down to earth answer.
“Well,” he said, “I’m definitely not going to run back.”
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Emily Woodhouse is a freelance outdoors writer, with a love for adventure and inspiring others. Her obsession with mountains probably started in Yosemite, age about 2. Born in the US but now based in the UK, she enjoys traveling in Europe and camping under the stars. Follow on Twitter: @TravellingLine
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