Ultra runner embarks on coast-to-coast run

Kostelnick turns to social media at the end of each day to share with his followers the miles and sights he conquered that day, including how many days he completed, his starting and stopping point, how many miles he ran that day and the total miles he has run. Kostelnick also writes about the people he saw during the day along with a message to inspire all. At the very end of his caption he shares his song of the day. Friday’s song of the day was Brad Meyers’ “Go On.”

When the women’s cross country team members walked out of the locker room doors on Wednesday, Oct. 3, they had no idea that in just two days they would be running with a world record breaking ultra runner. 

Pete Kostelnick is a 31-year-old ultra runner from Boone, Iowa. In 2016, he set the world record for the fastest coast to coast crossing of the United States. He ran from San Francisco to New York in 42 days, six hours and 30 minutes. Just two year laters, Kostelnick set out on another coast to coast run. In late July of this year, Kostelnick left the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska on foot in hopes to reach Key West Florida in just 100 days. 

The cross country team was told of an opportunity offered by Kostelnick’s sister, Ann Byersdorfer, which was to run with Kostelnick as he would be running through Cedar Falls on Friday, Oct. 5. 

The women, who compete once a week for three miles for a few months out of the year were astonished by Kostelnick who averages 54 miles a day. “I thought this guy was pretty incredible being able to run from Alaska to Florida. I barely like to run 30 minutes, let alone 30 miles,” women’s cross country team member, senior Jessica VanDorn said. 

Kostelnick ran in high school himself. But his sister said he never achieved to the level he does now. “When Pete was in high school, he did cross country, but he wasn’t really a great runner then. In fact he said he was the chubbiest runner on the team. Kind of the last one picked and stuff like that,” Byserdorfer said. 

Kostelnick stopped running after high school for a while but picked it back up when he met his wife in college who was an avid runner. “She was a big runner, and he was kind of competitive, and he wanted to see if he could keep up with her. He also wanted to see if he could get in shape. This kind of started the whole thing,” Byserdorfer said. 

Kostelnick soon found himself signing up for marathons but didn’t find a passion for them. “I kind of got burnt out on them. I kept getting injured, and I was just looking for something else,” Kostelnick said. 

He found his true passion in ultra running through a dare with his friend. “I heard about ultra marathons and  kind of just did a 44 mile ultra marathon as a dare from a friend and myself. I loved it,” Kostelnick said. 

Unlike his run from San Francisco to New York, where Kostelnick had a support team traveling with him, Kostelnick is completely self-supported, only carrying a stroller with him supplying him with the necessities. “I have five changes of clothes, so I do the laundry about every five days. I have a tent, and I only have had to use it a couple of times. I have just normal culinary items. I have a large canister that I put all my food in for the day. I have spare tubes and tires as well. I have a few water bottles as well. I fill up every morning to drink out of them,” Kostelnick said. 

Repeated days of running 50 to 100 miles can get long. But Pete said his mind is always stimulated by the new sites and the amazing people he meets along the way. “Every day is different. The landscape changes, and all of these days are kinda different miles. I’ve been meeting a lot of people, and I have a lot of friends that have come out to run with me. Tourists in RVs along the Alaska highway, cyclists along the Alaska highway. Also, I’ve met great people that have hosted me in their houses, as well,” he said. 

After his 10 to 11 hours on the road running, Kostelnick takes time at the end of his day to share with others about things he encountered that day to inspire others and clear his mind. “Two years ago, I never really posted anything on social media. This time I have been trying to take the time to do that,” Kostelnick said. “It’s been great, because I look forward to doing that every day. It’s kind of a fun part of the day to get out of my thoughts and post it and just for my own sake to have for the future. Just sharing with people is a lot of fun too.” 

Not only does Kostelnick share his progress on social media like Facebook and Instagram, but one can track his path online as well. This has allowed people to run with Pete and become part of his journey. “Now that he has gotten into the United States, it’s been pretty cool because a lot of people wanted to come out and run with him,” Byersdorfer said, “so I think he really enjoys meeting people. It motivates him too knowing people are watching and want to be a part of it too.”  

Through a tracking device connected to Kostelnick, the women’s cross country team was able to run with him along Main Street and become inspired by his journey from coast to coast. “I set goals for myself before every track season, and seeing Pete achieving the craziest things gives me more incentive to work harder at my goal,” women’s cross country team member, senior Maddy Lenaerts said. 

“I used to think there was a limit or cap on to how far I could go or how fast I could run, but obviously I was wrong and need to change my personal boundaries when it comes to running,” women’s cross country team member, sophomore Amara Lytle said. 

Kostelnick’s running adventures have allowed him to dream big, and find out what he loves doing and inspire others to as well. “He’s calling this run ‘Key to Key, unlocking my wildest dream.’ Doing these things, he has really allowed himself to really just dream big. Like, ‘What is the craziest thing that I would really find myself love doing? How can I make it happen? What support do I need to have that happen? What kind of training?’ I really think, he has become a really big dreamer,” Byersdorfer said. “I think it is a thing that so many people get inspired by. He has kind of shown himself, along with a thousand other people, what he is capable of doing.” 

Kostelnick’s run from Alaska to Florida will continue all around the country in the inspirations he has made all along his lengthy race. “It makes me think that running will be a big part of my life outside of high school. It’s not always just about a time, but finding yourself,” VanDorn said. 

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