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Anthony Costales’ Western States quest starts with strength training

Anthony Costales plans to return to Western States in June.

By Henry Howard


Anthony Costales has been focusing his efforts on strength training, spending additional time with his young daughter and aiming to get back to Western States as he deals with a slowly healing injury.

His path to elite status as an ultra runner began like so many others, around a high school cross-country course and track. Costales, born and raised in Fairfield, Calif., started running fairly seriously in high school. Upon graduation, he ran at American River College in Sacramento, and then transferred to Chico State for his final two years of my eligibility.

“Chico went really well,” he recalls. “I did a great program there. It's a really cool place to train, actually. They have a pretty incredible park that's right in town, and some really cool trails outside of the city. I was on a couple of national teams for cross country and got to nationals in track.”

Like many ultra runners, Costales ticked off longer races post-college. 5Ks became 10Ks and on up to the marathon, and eventually 100-mile races.

“A marathon was one of those things that's common after high school or collegiate running,” he says. “I wasn't anything crazy on the track, so I wasn't trying to pursue that. I got into the road events and had a decent success at it, but started to get a little burnt out after a couple of years. Then actually, as I started to dip into doing more trail stuff in general, was when I hit my PR in the marathon.”

‘A smooth progression’

But the trails were calling.

Anthony Costales made what he calls a “smooth progression,” moving from the 50K distance to 100 miles.

“I liked being out on the trails and being able to see new things — that was one of the biggest motivations. I remember after a marathon once thinking I was going to start getting into ultras. But even thinking about 50 miles, I was like, ‘Oh that seems a little quick.’

Costales made what he calls a “smooth progression,” moving from the 50K distance to 100 miles.

No matter the ultra distance, Costales is a top competitor. Among his top performances are winning Way Too Cool 50K in 2019, finishing first in the Canyons 100K in April 2021, taking the top spot in Black Canyon in 2023, and placing third in both Western State and UTMB Cape Town later that year.

His Black Canyon victory came a year after a fifth-place finish at the race. Not only did he improve his placement, while beating eventual Western States champ Tom Evans, Costales took an hour off his previous time.

“Black Canyon 2022 was one of my ‘off my game’ races,” he says. “The result was still solid, fifth place, but if you look back at all my results that's one of my worst ones place-wise. I went into it prepared with training, but there were quite a bit of little things I wasn't doing, and things I overlooked on the course.”

Costales was a year wiser and more motivated in 2023. The race day weather was also 10 to 15 degrees cooler.

“I guess between those things — weather, being slightly more prepared, weight training and doing a camp down in the southern desert that mimicked the Arizona terrain — were all a huge advantage for that day.”

Dealing with injury

Anthony Costales has several high-profile podium finishes.

As a teacher, Costales’ schedule limits what races he can get to. Last year — as well as early this year — injuries have also been a factor in his number of races.

“Last year was very intentional,” he reflects. “There might have been one other race I wanted to do that year, but I was a little banged up and decided to pull out. I did four races that year. One of them was more of a tune up. So many years it's been that low because of injuries, the pandemic, what I'm able to travel to since I teach.”

During our conversation in March, Costales was again working through a bone bruise injury after slipping on some ice in January. “It's been slow healing. It's an injury that can take up to six weeks. I thought I was getting over the hump of it a week ago, but then it spurred back up, so I had to take it back a notch. Things have been feeling good the last few days, but I said that two weeks ago, so it's hard to say.”

At the time, he said the kneecap injury has forced him into minimal running for about eight weeks. He also has not been able to race but is eyeing a tune-up before returning to Western States in June.

Last week, I checked back with him and he is progressing.

“I am just getting in the swing of running for all my training,” he says. “Had a good few weeks building back to normal running/fitness. Hoping for a good block of fitness for the next 12 to 13 weeks.” 

Costales has kept himself motivated and enjoyed spending time with his young daughter.

“Injuries are not something I ever want to happen, but whenever they do happen, it is extra time to get to enjoy regular life,” he says. “I get to spend Saturday mornings with my daughter, which is quite fun.  Like, she got to ride a bike with pedals for the first time this last weekend. Not that that wouldn't have happened anyway, but there's that much extra time to be doing stuff like that.”

At the Western States finish line, Anthony Costales is exhausted while his daughter, Piper, is bored.

A focus on strength training

He is also using the extra time on strength training, mobility work and using the elliptical. The strength training is usually 30 minutes long, four days a week.

“The ‘why’ is injury prevention,” he says about the strength training. “You learn if you do just a couple of these exercises it'll help if you take a wrong step or wrong fall. If you're just a little bit stronger in some of those areas then maybe you don't have to sit out for a week or two because of something that spurs up.”

At night, he does mobility work for 20 to 30 minutes while winding down or watching TV with his wife.

“I started doing it when races were getting closer to feel a little bit more loose and confident in my step in general,” he says. “It's a routine at night that I don't think too much about it when I do it. I go through the motions for about 20 to 30 minutes.”

As Costales works toward full-scale training and a return to Western States, it takes me back to one of my favorite Western States finish line photos. His daughter, Piper, is sitting next to him after he crossed the finish line and is laying on the track.

“It was pretty cool that she was there,” he recalls. “She was awake. She was a little scared. I knew there were a lot of people watching and there was a big crowd as I came in, but everything is kind of fuzzy. I grabbed her and thought she was going to run with me down the line and she was not having it. So I had to pick her up and just force her. When you see me laying down there, I had no idea there were that many photographers at the finish line. I remember laying down and giving her a little high five, fist bump, and then she was like, "Where's Mom?" She wanted out of there immediately because there were about 40 people behind us right then, all flashing their lights at her. I think it'll be something cool that she'll see when she gets older, whether she's into running or not. I think it's a cool thing that she was a part of. Definitely a special memory.”

Speed drill


Name: Anthony Costales 

Hometown: Fairfield, Calif.

Number of years running: 21 years 

How many miles a week do you typically run: 80-90, when it is unstructured; 110-120 in the heart of a big training block. 

Point of pride: “Being a die-hard San Francisco Giants fan in the 90s before they won three World Series championships in five years.” 

Favorite race distance: 50K (fast singletrack) 

Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: Thai Food (noodle dish)

Favorite piece of gear: Ice bandanna or handheld water filter.

Who inspires you: “My high school coach. He created a lot of opportunities by teaching work ethic both on and off the track. He’s someone who generated numerous opportunities for a variety of kids.” 

Favorite or inspirational song to run to: Till I Collapse, by Eminem (never really run with music).

Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: “’Keep it honest,’”something a college buddy and I would say to each other seriously and as a joke.” 

Where can other runners connect or follow you: Instagram, @acostales54.



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