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Marathon Chemist, Periodic Shoes, 99-cents Stores Fined

by Linda Wang
October 11, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 41


Marathon Man:
Credit: Courtesy of Mark Ott
Ott just keeps going and going.
Credit: Courtesy of Mark Ott
Ott just keeps going and going.

Once in a blue moon, you might hear of someone embarking on an epic run across the country. You likely think of “Forrest Gump,” chuckle, and shake your head.

One of these days, that EXTREME DISTANCE RUNNER could well be a fellow chemist. Mark Ott, a chemistry professor at Jackson Community College, in Michigan, recently completed a 100-mile race between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, finishing in roughly 18 hours and 30 minutes. Yes, that’s 100 miles. Not only did Ott, 38, finish the race, but he also placed 10th among the 166 runners who competed. “I didn’t dream I was going to do as well as I did going into it,” Ott says. “I just wanted to survive and not die.”

For Ott, running started out as a way to get in shape, but over the past five years, it’s become much more than that. While running, he thinks about his life, chemistry, and new ways of teaching his students. “It’s very therapeutic, and it’s very relaxing,” he says.

During the 100-miler, Ott had to eat on the run. “I ate a lot of candy bars, fruits, and potato chips,” he says. “At about mile 75, I had a bowl of ramen noodles, which were the greatest tasting ramen noodles I’ve ever had in my life.”

Ott is nearing completion of his goal to run marathons in all 50 states of the U.S. He has only six more to go, which he predicts he’ll complete by this time next year. Of all the marathons he’s done, Ott says, the Boston Marathon is the most memorable “because you’re running with 25,000 people who are all really good runners.”

Not one to sit around, Ott already has a new goal. “For spring break next year, I’m planning on running across the state of Michigan from east to west,” he says. “Of course, if I do that, then I will have to go from south to north. At some point, I’d love to run across the U.S.” Well, Mark, the Newscripts gang will be cheering you on—from the comfort of our couches.

Robert Kaley of St. Louis did a double take recently when he passed a Foot Locker store in downtown Boston. In the window was a giant PERIODIC TABLE. Not of the elements, however, but of shoes. “I was blown away,” the retired industrial chemist tells Newscripts. “That was the last place I ever expected to see a chemistry tie-in.”

Scientific Display:
Credit: Robert Kaley
Foot Locker’s table of shoes.
Credit: Robert Kaley
Foot Locker’s table of shoes.

It turns out that the table was part of Foot Locker’s back-to-school campaign. Each element box contained the name of a different sneaker. Kaley isn’t bothered by the use of chemistry for advertising purposes. “I think it’s great,” he says. “Anything to make chemistry look more fun is worth it.”

A federal judge recently fined 99 Cents Only Stores more than $400,000 for selling household products that contain illegal unregistered and MISBRANDED PESTICIDES and cleaners. The products, imported from Mexico, include a household cleaner called Bref Complete Cleaning & Disinfection with Densicloro (a bleach); Farmer’s Secret Berry & Produce Cleaner; and PiC Boric Acid Roach Killer III, which was misbranded because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved labels were upside down or inside out, making them hard to read.

“All pesticide distributors—discounters and high-end retailers alike—must comply with the law,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, in a statement. Sometimes, it just doesn’t pay to try to save a buck.


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