Running with Plastics: Guest Post by Steve Major

Food Primary

The following is a post by Steve Major, a fire engineer in Tracy, California. In support of Good For Kids, a foundation that provides educational opportunities for disadvantaged young people, he participated in Racing the Planet Australia. When he is not facing the challenges of expedition and marathon races, Steve is a first responder to fires, freeway accidents and medical emergencies.

Recently I ran a grueling 150 mile expedition length footrace through the outback of Australia on behalf of Good for Kids, a charity that provides educational opportunities for disadvantaged kids. During the footrace I needed to carry all of my food, clothing, bedding and other camping essentials for the seven day duration of the race. The total weight of my fully loaded pack was just over 25 pounds and plastics made this possible!

A lot of people might think that 25 pounds is far too much weight to carry for 10 miles, let alone a week-long 150 mile race. But considering the alternative, I may not have been able to complete the run without the aid of plastics in nearly all the equipment I carried.

I’ll give a couple examples of how I was able to keep my pack and gear weight down with the use of plastics. With the purchase of a backpack that used a lightweight and durable Nylon/Polyester fabric, I was able to keep the weight of my 35L pack to just 1.3 pounds. Other similar sized packs constructed of different materials weigh 2 to 2 and half pounds or more. To put that in perspective, one extra pound carried over 150 miles could add an additional 264,000 pounds of pressure on my body during the race. That’s just the pack! Another way I was able to save weight and precious space in my pack was to repackage all of my food for the week into small extra lightweight zip lock bags. Every inch I could save and every ounce I could shed made my run that much easier.

Plastics were not limited to just my pack and food containers. My clothes were made primarily of plastic. All of my shirts and shorts were made of polyester. They were extremely lightweight and moisture wicking to keep me cool in the heat of the Australian desert, and provided UV protection from the sun. Most importantly, they helped reduce chaffing as I ran. These are things that other fabrics couldn’t do for me. I was literally bathed in plastic from head to toe! Nylon was used to provide stability inside my shoes, while a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) film was applied to the tops, so the fabric didn’t retain water after multiple water crossings. This also enabled my shoes to dry during the evenings in camp. Considering all of the water crossings, I had very few blisters. Happy feet = Happy runner!!

It didn’t end there. Plastics carried my water, provided shelter at night, kept my gear dry through water crossings… I could go on and on! I had a fantastic time in the Australian outback pushing myself mentally and physically and I know my experience would have been much more difficult without the plastics that helped me along the way.