Eddie Vega, wearing yellow, runs a marathon barefoot in Riverfront Park in Niles during a Mainly Marathons Heartland Series event Wednesday. (Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT)
Eddie Vega, wearing yellow, runs a marathon barefoot in Riverfront Park in Niles during a Mainly Marathons Heartland Series event Wednesday. (Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT)

Archived Story

‘Barefoot Bandito’ on a mission

Published 8:35am Thursday, June 5, 2014

One person among the 75 running in Wednesday’s Mainly Marathons event in Riverfront Park Wednesday stood out.

Not because he was faster than everyone else, or taller, or wearing a flashy outfit.

Eddie Vega, of North Carolina, was difficult to miss because he was not wearing any shoes.

The “Barefoot Bandito,” as he calls himself, is in the middle of a mission to set a world record for the most marathons completed in a year without the aid of footwear.

There is currently no record for barefoot marathons in a year, but Vega said he would need to complete at least 50 to set the mark. His goal is 100.

“I’ve got a big cushion,” he said.

What motivates Vega?

A quote from Benjamin Franklin: Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.

“That’s what I’m going for,” said Vega, who has completed 38 so far.

It was raining Wednesday morning, so stuck to Vega’s feet were pieces of grass, leaves and whatever else he picked up along the first 14 miles of the 26.2 mile jaunt through Riverfront Park.

Some might call him crazy, but he is also doing it for a good cause — to raise money for the Soles4Souls organization, which collects footwear for the 300-plus million worldwide who don’t have shoes.

“It can get rough at times, depending on the surface, but it’s worth it,” he said.

To support Vega’s cause, visit his website barefootbandito.com.

About 60 percent of the runners Wednesday plan to participate in the Mainly Marathons Heartland Series, which asks runners to complete five marathons (or half marathons) in five days in five different states.

The first leg of the series began in Niles. Next up is Anderson, Indiana; then Bloomington, Illinois; Clinton, Iowa; and Monroe, Wisconsin.

Marathon enthusiasts Clint Burleson and his wife, Hanne, of New Mexico, started Mainly Marathons two years ago with the goal of promoting those who prefer running 26.2 miles for quantity rather than speed.

There is no time limit in a Mainly Marathons event. The point is just to finish.

“We don’t want to put a lot of pressure on people,” Clint said. “It’s about having fun.”

Clint said they were looking for a place to run in southwest Michigan and Niles was the perfect fit because of Riverfront Park.

“There’s a large parking lot area and very little traffic for runners to deal with,” he said. “We hope to come back.”

Clint credits Tyanna Weller, Four Flags Chamber of Commerce CEO, for helping him get the event to Niles.

For more information about Mainly Marathons, visit the website mainlymarathons.com.

 

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