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Historic run helps conquer hunger

December 10, 2010

Will Laughlin ran across Costa Rica – from coast to coast – for peanut butter.

The 45-year-old Boulder, Colorado man ran 261 grueling miles to bring awareness to a product that is helping deliver needed nutrients to malnourished children.

Laughlin’s company, Nut-rients, donates a percentage of its profits to a foundation that provides “therapeutic” peanut butter, a 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 left from the Central Pacific beach town of Jacó, trailed by his wife, a paramedic and two therapists, for the four-day run to the Caribbean coast. His route followed the famous Costa Rican cycling race, La Ruta de los Conquistadores, which begins on the Pacific coast and ends in the Caribbean’s Limón province. Laughlin arrived at the Atlantic coast at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

According to the founder of the Ruta de los Conquistadores, Román Urbina, Laughlin is the first runner to complete the course.

“I can make it through the physical pain,” Laughlin told to The Tico Times before the run. “I am more worried about the mental discomfort and how the mind starts to work after that much sleep deprivation.”

He finished sleep-deprived and exhausted, having run 20 hours a day. But it was the best run of his life, he told his wife, Beth Laughlin.

“Usually, he starts questioning why he is doing what he is doing around the 100-mile mark,” Beth Laughlin said. “But at mile 140, right as he was making the ascent of the first volcano, he was looking mentally and physically strong.”

 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 was quite like the muddy and mountainous course he completed on Tuesday.

“There are so many climatic changes [here], from tropical [heat] to cold mountain winds,” said Urbina, who ran part of the course with Laughlin.

Laughlin trained by running 100 miles a week. He said he “makes friends with (the pain) and becomes comfortable with it.”

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

“We consider [Costa Rica] 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.”

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