Costello Transforms for Trail Run World Championship

Nov. 9, 2012

Pennsylvania runner has dropped 47 pounds while training for event

Remember Richard Costello, the "Shave It or Save It" bearded guy from the 2010 XTERRA World Championship triathlon?

You may not recognize him now, and it's not just because he shaved off his massive beard on Maui two years ago. Costello has lost nearly 50 pounds in the past year while training for the 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship.

Rich Costello and Richard BurgunderCostello, who resides in Warminster, Pennsylvania, said he weighed 247 pounds when he competed in the 2011 XTERRA World Championship off-road triathlon on Maui. The excess weight took its toll, as he finished near the back of the pack for the race.

(Richard Costello, middle, and Richard Burgunder at right; courtesy Richard Burgunder /

"Athletically, I was feeling overweight and sluggish," said Costello, 45. "My nutrition was in the toilet. My performance in all three (swim, bike, run) suffered that day, but it was clearly an ongoing frustration with my inability to put together a decent run in these races that had bothered me the most."

For 2012, Costello decided to focus his efforts entirely on trail running, leaving triathlons aside for the time being. He entered races in the XTERRA Pocono Trail Run Series, and also did the XTERRA Richmond Trail Run 10K. He now weighs 200 pounds, and will compete in the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship for the first time. This year's race is scheduled for December 2 at Kualoa Ranch on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

To prepare for the race, he sought coaching help from Richard Burgunder, a fellow Pennsylvanian and a longtime successful XTERRA Trail Run competitor. "His inspiration and input was and has been huge for me throughout in building my confidence," Costello said of Burgunder.

Burgunder said he knew of Costello through XTERRA triathlon races and the LONGTRAILHEAD blog, and was surprised when Costello first called for assistance.

"I was surprised and extremely honored due to how prolific of a figure Richard is in the XTERRA and adventure sports community," Burgunder said. "I knew who Richard was, but I had never met him personally prior to the Pocono Trail Run Series. We first met at the Mount Pocono Trail Run in early May, which was the first race of the 2012 XTERRA Pocono Trail Run Series. I was absolutely enamored by Richard and ecstatic about finally meeting the mighty beard guy!"

Costello famously shaved his beard on stage at the awards ceremony for the 2010 XTERRA World Championship as part of a fundraiser for the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

Burgunder said he prescribed a weekly workout schedule for Costello that mostly featured hill climbs and other training techniques on technical terrain. As an example, Costello said he would run for 15 to 20 minutes, then stop and do a set of bodyweight squats, then start running again, and repeat the process over and over.

Rich Costello Utah"I found these to not only be a great exercise in stressing all the muscles in my lower limbs, but also a great way to mimic the expected muscle fatigue I will encounter and have to overcome during the race," Costello said.

(Richard Costello pictured, before shaving his beard and losing the weight, courtesy XTERRA Photos)

His background in triathlons also allowed him to cross-train with swim and bike sessions. Overall, he said he has been training four to five days a week for the entire year.

Still, he has no delusions of grandeur when it comes to the race. For starters, the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship will be the first 21-kilometer race of his career. All his previous running races were 11K or shorter.

"My personal goals set for the impending 21K world championship race are to simply complete the entire distance, and to feel as though I have put my best effort into accomplishing it performance wise," Costello said. "Looking at pictures taken from previous years' events tells me that this race will also be incredibly fun to take part in. Truthfully, I'm pretty stoked! The Kaaawa Valley venue looks absolutely amazing, beautifully challenging, and XTERRA tough for sure. I can't wait to see and experience it all first-hand!"

There will also be the long travel from Pennsylvania to Hawaii, not to mention the drastic weather change. Temperartures were in the 50s in Pennsylvania this week, and in the 80s in Hawaii.

"Clearly I know it is going to be challenging for me, there is no disputing that," Costello said. "The nature of the course, and the expected demands overall of which I will face, are all part of what lures me to such athletic opportunities offered. As for the heat, I say bring it on! Right now, I'd rather be sweating in Hawaii than shivering in Pennsylvania."

Burgunder, who will also run at Kualoa Ranch on December 2, said: "I think that it's absolutely phenomenal what Richard has done with his transformation. He's an incredibly inspirational individual and athlete. Richard is the ideal role model and active lifestyle ambassador that everyone should look up to for motivation to better their lives. Through immense determination, persistence, and immaculate focus, Richard has shown the world how to overcome extreme adversity."

The XTERRA Trail Run World Championship is open to runners of all ages and skill levels, from anywhere in the world. Online registration is available at

When: Sunday, December 2, 9 a.m. start
Where: Kualoa Ranch, Oahu, Hawaii
Who: Open to runners of all ages and skill levels
Courses: 21K (championship course), 10K, 5K or "Adventure Walk"
Entry fees: $60 for 21K, $45 for 10K, $35 for 5K, $30 for Adventure Walk
Registration information:

Trail Run