Peter Kostelnick Explains How to Combine Your Demanding Day Job with Running Across America

Ultrarunner Peter Kostelnick
Photo credit: Zandy Mangold in California, September 2016

Hello! My name is Peter Kostelnick. I’m a financial analyst by day and ultrarunner by morning and night. I’m from Boone, IA, and have lived my entire life in Iowa, Missouri, and Nebraska in the United States. Right now, my wife and I live in Hannibal, MO. I love to travel, take part in outdoor activities, follow all sports, and am always up for a new beer to try.

It doesn’t leave much time for anything else, but honestly I seem to waste time if I’m not always busy with something productive anyway! My wife is very supportive. She would be okay with me running less, but she never makes it something I should feel guilty about. I train more on the treadmill than most runners, which allows me to catch up on more things like email on my phone, although not in the most productive way.

Ultrarunner Peter Kostelnick
Photo credit: Zandy Mangold

How and why did you get into long-distance running?

I originally got in to running by accident to lose high school and college. I considered myself more of a baseball player growing up. I thought the marathon distance was the most ridiculous thing ever, so made it a goal towards the end of college to finish one, and I did. And then I met my wife, and actually fell in love with running.

Why is running important for you?

I think running means so much to me now because it’s taken over so many parts of my life… many of my friends are runners, most of the trips I take are because of running, and how I plan my day is often scheduled around — running! Ultrarunning has made me realize that often times you are much more capable of what you think you aren’t, but also not as capable as you think you are when things are going well! Never get too excited when things go well, and never get completely discouraged when things aren’t going well.

Ultrarunner Peter Kostelnick
from Pete’s Facebook Page

How do you train and become better at running?

I’ve always believed in going by feel and not following a specific training program. I’ve never had a coach. I generally develop a “plan” with some flexibility to mix up how fast and how far I go on certain days, with an overall monthly mileage goal the bigger picture.

What are the hardest parts of running across America?

The hardest part is the mental part of being over 75% done with the run, but still being over 750 miles away. It was so hard to feel like I had really done it until I was right there at the finish. You think at some point you begin to see the finish, but in reality it’s not until the very end. I also overlooked the safety aspects of a run like this. With as many distracted drivers as there are today, it’s never been more dangerous to run on roads.

Ultrarunner Peter Kostelnick
Photo credit: Zandy Mangold

How do you prepare for events/races?

I typically just focus on running. 🙂 I usually plan races I take part in with a number of variables. I like to take part in races that have a good reputation, and long history if possible. When you are going to put your body through an ultra, you want it to be a reputable race that brings out the best in you.

Badwater 135, Western States 100, Leadville 100, Pikes Peak Marathon, Arkansas Traveler 100, and Superior 100 are all races with great history that I’ve enjoyed running (although I still need to go back to Leadville to finish!). The Spartathlon is another race I would love to take part in.

How do you eat and sleep?

I have switched up my diet a few times over the years, and have noticed moderation (if possible) seems to work best for me. I can’t do vegetarian very well. I take iron and vitamin D supplements, but try to not ingest too many pills! When I race, I take in salt and electrolyte pills.

Ultrarunner Peter Kostelnick
from Pete’s Facebook Page

How do you handle injuries and recovery?

Luckily, I seem to be very good at dodging injuries. My best piece of advice is to do the majority of your miles at an easy pace. Ever since I got smarter about training and not trying to do everything at or near race pace (marathon or shorter), I usually don’t have overuse injuries, even though I run more miles.

What is your best advice people new to long-distance running?

Be humble. I see too many friends who want to get into running injure themselves a few weeks in to a running routine, and then quit for a long time. Take it slow from the start, and don’t be afraid to even walk if you can’t run continuously very far.

What kind of running shoes and clothes do you use?

HOKA ONE ONE shoes — the Clifton is my favorite model, and has been my favorite for over three years now. I love all the HOKA apparel now too. It’s the highest quality clothing I’ve ever worn.

Ultrarunner Peter Kostelnick
Photo credit: Zandy Mangold

How do you bring things with you?

I typically use a backpack if I need it. All the Nathan gear is top notch and is usually what I use. I like to pack light. Many times less is more. The more you carry leads to needing to carry even more sometimes because it slows you down!

I like high calorie dense foods like nuts, a PB&J, or protein bars, anti-chafe product like Squirrel’s Nut Butter, a super light shell, gloves, and of course water. I don’t like to carry anything that’s not absolutely necessary in an emergency. In races, I’m usually lucky enough to have such a great crew that I just need a handheld water bottle and a couple food items jammed into a side pocket.

What has been your best sport purchase below $100?

Ice bandanas are a cheap item that go a LONG way in hot races!

As for my favorite things, I’m a simple guy. If I have my HOKA shoes on and my Squirrels Nut Butter keeping my skin happy, then I’m happy!

Photo credit: Zandy Mangold
Photo credit: Zandy Mangold

What will the future bring?

I still have some goals to reach on 24 hour races. I would love to run the Spartathlon, Leadville 100, and Keys 100 as well in particular. The Badwater 135 forever holds a piece of me too. I want to be fast again, so I may work in a marathon or two. And, of course, I still dream of FKTs.

Visit Peter Kostelnick on his website and follow him on Facebook

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