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SPECIAL ISSUE: SHAPING L.A.

The ultra achiever

January 07, 2008|Jeannine Stein

Chris Kostman

Age: 40

Occupation: Founder, AdventureCORPS Inc., which holds ultra running and bicycle races in California

Why he matters: Has helped bring ultra races into the mainstream, giving athletes challenging new goals.

While most people can't fathom running a marathon, others can't fathom stopping at 26.2 miles. As the niche of ultra and endurance events grows, increasing numbers of otherwise ordinary men and women are pushing their physical and mental limits to extremes.

Enabling them is Kostman, an ultra athlete himself and founder of AdventureCORPS Inc., which stages the Kiehl's Badwater Ultramarathon (a 135-mile footrace from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney), the Furnace Creek 508 (a 508-mile bicycle race from Santa Clarita to Twentynine Palms) and the Death Valley century and double century rides, high-profile events that have helped bring ultra races into the mainstream world of competitive running and cycling.

As race director of these events, Kostman has worked to dispel the myth that people who compete in them are crazy. More participants are getting involved in ultras, with some races increasing ranks by 10% to 20% every year, and new events are cropping up.

"It's all about the triumph of the human spirit," says Kostman, who caught the ultra bug at age 14, when he biked from his home in Glendora to Mt. Baldy and back, a 50-mile trip.

"I provide forums where people can have life-changing experiences," he says. "They can appreciate their connection to the environment and one another. One of the things I appreciated from my very first 50-mile bike ride was that in a few hours or more you could have a really meaningful experience that's exciting, interesting, engaging and enlightening. I wanted to keep having experiences like that, and I wanted as many people as possible to experience them too."

Although he's been a participant and organizer of racing events since he was a teen, Kostman says, "I feel like I'm barely getting started." He's working on launching his own magazine that will "celebrate the athlete adventurer lifestyle, including a profound connection and respect for the environment."

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