Race Across USA runners pass through area on 3,100-mile odyssey

Apr 1, 2015

A group of runners is making tracks across South Arkansas today on a 3,100-mile journey to better understand human physical endurance and to raise awareness about the dangers of childhood obesity.

Purdue University anthropologist Bryce Carlson is one of seven still pounding the pavement and running a marathon distance a day. They set out from Springhill, La., Wednesday and will end today’s run just south of Magnolia, Ark. They’re progressing eastward across Arkansas and will stop in El Dorado tomorrow.

Carlson says he’s surprised how well his body has held up since beginning the journey on Jan. 16. Research assistants are gathering data at every step.

“On any given day, they’re collecting our body weight in the morning before the run and after the run. We’re looking at body composition, how body fat changes, how levels of hydration before and after may influence performance,” Carlson said.

The runners are under the microscope on this project. A dozen scientists from universities in the U.S. and Canada will analyze the data to learn how human culture and biology work together to adapt to stress, according Carlson. But there are other research objectives that will help casual runners feel better on the open road.

“We’re studying how these runners are changing their behavior, how they’re changing different pieces of technology or gear -- like really cushioned shoes or different types of shorts or shirts. We’re changing any number of things to adapt to the stress of running this many miles to avoid injury and to keep going,” Carlson said.

The runners plan to end their race on day 140 at the White House. Carlson says he averaged an 8-and-a-half minute mile across Texas. The runners’ backgrounds and where they are is at Race Across USA. The group is promoting the 100 Mile Club program, which supports opportunities to run or walk 100 miles at school each year.

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