Colorado man takes on Ruta de los Conquistadores on foot

December 2, 2010

Will Laughlin is running for peanut butter.

Yes, peanut butter. The 45-year-old from Boulder, Colo. is running 261 miles through the jungles of Costa Rica, all with the aim of bringing awareness to a product that’s saving lives of malnourished children.

His company, Nut-rients, donates a percentage of its profits to a foundation then provides “therapeutic” peanut butter – creamy peanut butter enhanced with nutrients – to people in disaster areas around the world. Aid workers and doctors now regard therapeutic (or fortified) peanut butter as the most effective treatment for severe malnourishment, he said.

On Saturday, Laughlin will leave from Jacó, trailed by his wife, a paramedic and two therapists, for the five to eight day haul to the Caribbean. He’s following the famed Ruta de los Conquistadores, an internationally-recognized bike race, that travels from the Pacific to Santa Ana to Turrialba to Limón.

As far as he knows, no one has done it at a run.

“I can make it through the physical pain,” said Laughlin, who expects to run for twenty hours a day. “I am more worried about the mental discomfort and how the mind starts to work after that much sleep deprivation.”

Laughlin has run 150 miles through the Sahara Desert, 200 miles over the Rocky Mountains and 155 miles in China’s Gobi Desert. But nothing will compare to the tropical, muddy and mountainous course he takes on Saturday.

He trained by running 100 miles a week, sometimes he’d take two hour runs to pick up a hamburger, milkshake and greasy fries from a fast food joint, before turning around to make the two hour return trip. He said most of the trek is a mental game in which he focuses on the pain. Laughlin said he  “makes friends with (the pain) and becomes comfortable with it.”

“I practice staying calm and present,” he said. “I am worried that 60 miles into this run, I’ll be tempted to think of the finish. It can be daunting to think of the end of the race when you are nowhere near.”

Laughlin spent 12 months in Costa Rica in 2001 helping to build a school. He later worked as a consultant for North American companies. 

“We consider it our second home,” he said. “We feel a real connection here. I wanted to explore more of Costa Rica on foot because that’s the most intimate way to explore anything … Obviously, this is a more extreme way to do it.”

And his principle energy snack that will keep him going? A peanut butter bar.

You can track Laughlin online at nut-rients.com/blog/

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