Pete Kostelnick’s world-record cross-country run might have left some runners satisfied.
In fall 2016, he made the 3,100-mile journey from San Francisco to New York City in 42 days, six hours and 30 minutes, beating Frank Gianinno Jr.’s previous time in 1980 by four days.
Despite that achievement, Kostelnick, a former resident of Lincoln, said his friends and family thought he was crazy to make his next run, this time across the continent.
“I think they were less surprised somehow than they were with other runs I’ve done just because it was like, ‘Oh, this is just Pete doing what he does,’” he said.
From July 31 to Nov. 5, Kostelnick ran across North America, starting in Kenai, Alaska, and ending in Key West, Florida, the southernmost point of the state. His 5,384-mile run took him through 10 states and two countries in 97 days, six hours and 57 minutes.
Unlike his first run, which featured a four-member team, Kostelnick made this excursion alone.
“Just knowing that it’s that much longer, self-supported, I could still challenge myself, but at the same time, do not quite so many miles per day and be able to take it in a little bit more,” he said. “So, that was kind of the thought process for me.”
“I think the big thing behind this run was just wanting to do a run across America where I could stop and take photos and just kind of challenge myself a little differently,” he said.
The idea for the run came from Kostelnick’s childhood road trips from Iowa to Alaska. He loved the trip and wanted to show people how beautiful the state was.
“I heard about people motorcycling or RVing all the way from Alaska to Florida,” he said. “So when I was thinking about running across America again, I didn’t want to just do the same route I did two years ago.”
For his new run, Kostelnick carried a stroller with him that included five pairs of clothes, a GPS and tent. He also brought along a Bluetooth speaker for the first time, as well as license plates he found along the way and clothing given to him by the strangers he stayed with.
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Kostelnick’s stroller also contained food supplies. For his initial run, his crew would cook meals for him.
“I was having a lot of really good meals and a lot of variety,” he said. “On this run, it was basically whatever I could find.”
Whereas his first run had him running roughly 14 hours a day, this run’s schedule was based on where Kostelnick could sleep and eat. Some portions of the route had him running five to six days before he saw another town.
During the first few weeks, Kostelnick ate mostly trail mix and chili. He had to eat between 7,000 and 8,000 calories a day throughout his run, something that got easier as he encountered more towns.
“I kind of got into the routine of eating Subway at night, and throughout the day, I was really just eating stuff like Clif Bars during the day,” he said.
But Kostelnick took a slower pace for this journey, averaging 55.3 miles per day, compared to his initial run’s 70-75.
“Some days, I would just do like 20 to 30 miles if I had a longer stretch before that, just depending on where towns were and were there motels were to stay in,” he said.
The pacing of his journey also allowed Kostelnick to take in his surroundings more this time around. Along the way, he saw caribou, alligators and bears.
Finally reaching the finish line in Florida after more than three months on the run, Kostelnick said he still felt like his run was more than just reaching the destination.
“I think it was more celebrating the journey and just reflecting on it more so than just achieving a goal for me, really,” he said. “So it was great, but I wasn’t overly excited or anything. I was just like, ‘This is where it ends.’”
Kostelnick, who now lives in Cincinnati with his wife, Nikki, said he often gets asked why he takes time off from work and his regular life to make these runs.
His answer? He lives modestly and said he wouldn’t want to miss the experience.
“I think it’s just a great way to enjoy life, meet people, see places, and it’s a great challenge at the same time,” he said. “... But I think for this, my main focus was just getting out there and experiencing life and enjoying it and having people follow along.”
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