Postdoc Wins 100-Mile Race

Buck Postdoc Matthew Laye Wins 100-Mile Race While Pursuing a Scientific Career 

Matt LayeMatthew Laye is a postdoctoral fellow at the Buck Institute with two careers. During the day, he is a scientist interested in studying how exercise and dietary restriction can influence healthy aging in humans. After work, he is an elite runner who recently won his first ultramarathon race called the Rocky Raccoon 100 held just outside of Houston, Texas in Huntsville State Park. 

Laye has always been interested in how lifestyle changes can improve healthy aging in humans. For his doctoral research, Laye studied exercise biology at University of Missouri in the lab of Dr. Frank Booth. There he used a novel model of physical inactivity in rodents to examine alterations in metabolism. After his PhD he went to Copenhagen, Denmark where he was a junior group leader at the Centre for Inflammation and Metabolism, studying small fragments of RNA called microRNAs that regulate protein expression in cells. Specifically, Laye studied microRNA regulation skeletal muscle including how microRNA levels are altered by aging. Laye came to the Buck in 2012 to conduct more basic biology research in Dr. Pankaj Kapahi’s lab. Here he is exploring the mechanisms of how dietary restriction can prolong lifespan in fruit flies.

Laye has already had a successful scientific career including over 20 publications and multiple fellowships including the competitive F32 NIH postdoctoral fellowship. He also is actively involved in the Buck community and was recently appointed the vice president of the Buck Postdoctoral Association. As his scientific career has evolved, so has his running. During his time at the Buck, Laye transitioned from marathons and road races to ultramarathons. The Rocky Raccoon 100 was his first 100 mile race and Laye surprised everyone including himself by winning the race and running the 4th fastest time in the race’s history, 13:17:52. Laye’s race time also qualified him for the Western States 100, which is the world’s oldest and most prestigious 100-mile race, in June.

So how does Laye balance scientific research with training and winning ultramarathons? According to Laye, running has always been a part of his life, but so has science. He explains, “I could not be a full time athlete, and I could not be one of those scientists that never leave the lab. The two balance each other, and while one may take precedent over the other at times, in general they work together. In the end I always try to keep a perspective that what I do in the lab and on the trails complement each other and while both are incredibly important, neither define me.”

When asked how science and research has impacted his running career, Laye said, “Being trained as a scientist has been extremely important in my running career.  Sometimes PhDs can be characterized as knowing a lot about a little, but I think their greatest skill is being able to objectively and skillfully dissect quality research and arguments from nonsensical ones. I use this skill to examine sports science literature and figure out what training and nutritional strategies are evidenced based and which are marketing hype. Being able to perform this analysis on my own gives me a competitive advantage. In addition, knowing the physiology behind exercise and exercise adaptations gives me the added advantage of designing appropriate training programs to be successful at ultrarunning events.”

While Laye’s future career goals are focused on improving human health he also sees parallels between research and ultrarunning, commenting, “In basic research like ultrarunning patience is the ultimate virtue. While the immediate benefits might be tough to see the long term advances in fitness or knowledge are ultimately what drives us.” With perspective like that Laye should continue to make strides in the lab and on the trails.      

Read more about Matt’s exciting win at the Rocky Raccoon 100, read his interview by Outside Online. (http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/running/trail-running/10-Questions-With-Rocky-Raccoon-100-Winner-Matt-Laye.html.)

 

Written By Karen Ring, PhD

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