Northern Illinois University

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News Release

Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-9472

November 11, 2009

Bicycle-loving department chair to screen
documentary about ‘Race Across America’

Paul Carpenter

DeKalb, Ill. — Paul Carpenter is no stranger to the highly personal challenge of pedaling a bicycle through the harshest of conditions, from scorching heat and bitter cold to severe fatigue and uncomfortable hallucinations.

Yet Carpenter, chair of Northern Illinois University’s Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, will tackle his greatest challenge ever next June: the Race Across America, a grueling 3,014-mile marathon from California to Maryland in 12 days or less. The winner is likely to arrive on the early side of Day 9.

And as Carpenter prepares for what’s called the “second-toughest sporting event in the world,” he wants to give the campus community a glimpse into his pending adventure.

“Bicycle Dreams,” a documentary about the 2005 RAAM, will show at 3:45 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, in Cavan Auditorium (Gabel 126). Doors open at 3:15 p.m. Carpenter will conduct a question-and-answer session at 5:35 p.m. Popcorn and water are free.

The College of Education, the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, the KNPE Majors Club and the NIU Athletic Training Student Association are presenting the film with special permission from Stephen Auerbach, who directed the 2009 movie that has won the top award at several film festivals.

“I thought this might be a useful idea of what this RAAM thing is all about,” Carpenter says. “You can put it down on paper. You can describe it. Actually showing it to people makes all the difference.”

Carpenter has watched “Bicycle Dreams” five times this year, each viewing leaving him excited and overwhelmed.

One scene – he doesn’t want to go into specifics that might spoil the experience for Thursday’s audience, but calls 2005 “a particularly unique year” – has made “a huge impact” on him every time.

“There are some who watch it and think, ‘These people are absolutely insane.’ There are those who actually get inspired,” Carpenter says. “I typically run the gamut, wondering what I’ve gotten myself into.”

Carpenter, who has become locally famous for his daily commute from Batavia to NIU on his bicycle, has qualified several times for RAAM. In 2008, he won the 1,044-mile Race Across the West. In 2007, he won the Tejas 500.

As he has climbed the ladder into the upper echelons of competition, however, the costs and logistics have risen accordingly.

Joe Jamison, past-president of the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association Inc., volunteered to manage Carpenter’s organizational needs and crew. The on-road support team also includes Carpenter’s wife, Melissa Hyams, as well as some Kinesiology and Physical Education faculty members.

Two other professors will conduct research during the race; Carpenter’s son Sam, who works at a post-production film company in Los Angeles, is planning to film his father’s journey.

Carpenter, who has “sort of harbored this dream – this fantasy – of taking part in RAAM for 20 years now, and until about three years ago, it was nothing more than wishful thinking,” is hard-pressed to say why 2010 is the right year.

“It’s more a case of, ‘Why not this year?’ At some point, you just have to make the decision to do it. There’s nothing special about 2010. In 2008, I started seriously thinking about this. In 2009, there was just too little time to get things organized. Now I’ve had some chances to save money and work out the logistics,” he says.

“I’m hoping by showing the movie that we will raise awareness and encourage people to become part of it, whether it’s just tracking my progress during the race or helping with resources they are willing to contribute in any way shape or form.”

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