- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 22, 2015

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Like many Alabamians, Jimmie Barnes loves running. What makes Barnes different is that he prefers running ultra-marathons - any distance greater than 26.2 miles - and especially 24-hour and 48-hour races.

This week, Barnes is one of 11 people making the cross-state trek from the Mississippi border near Ethelsville to the Georgia border near Borden Springs. The 210.3-mile trek is split into eight legs in eight days - more than the distance of a marathon a day.

Oh - and he’s 76 years old.

“I love it,” Barnes said before departing for the fifth leg Wednesday morning. “I’m slow, but I do it anyways.”

Barnes, who has lived in the state since 1972, is participating in Alabama leg of the Race Across USA marathon series. Seven core members began in Huntington Beach, California, on Jan. 16, and they will run to Washington, D.C.

The Hoover man is one of the four people, including daughter Rebecca Barnes, who joined the core team for the Alabama leg, which will end Saturday. The two are the only Alabamians participating in the event.

Along the way, the group stops at schools to teach children about health, fitness and achieving their goals and dreams.

Running extreme distances is nothing new for Barnes - he’s been doing it for nearly 35 years.

In 2014, Barnes ranked first in the world in his age group (men aged 75) in the 48-hour ultra-marathon distance category. In the same year, he ranked fourth in the world in the 24-hour ultra-marathon category.

All-time rankings for 48-hour races peg Barnes as ranked second in North America, and sixth in the world.

Twice, he has run across the state of Tennessee. Another time, he crossed the country of Panama.

“These events aren’t too common, so you have to travel a lot of times to get to them,” said 32-year-old Rebecca Barnes, who traveled from her home in California to race with her father this week. “When I was a child, we went to England for a race once. We went to California another time.”

Jimmie Barnes says he has slowed a bit over the years. Last July, he tore knee cartilage in a trail race. When doctors gave him the option of taking shots or having the meniscus replaced, he chose the shots and has been running like normal since.

“It’s inspiring for me to see him still do these things,” Rebecca Barnes said. “When I heard he signed up for this race, I felt like I had to do it. I respect him a lot for what he’s done over the years.”

Jimmie Barnes is far removed from his first marathon in the 1970s, and though he is not as fast, he says he’ll continue doing the races until he can’t go any further.

“You meet a bunch of interesting people and you see a bunch of interesting things,” he said. “That’s what keeps me doing it.”

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