Barefoot Bandit Bahamas Bound
NASSAU, Bahamas (January 12, 2015) – Eddie Vega never runs a marathon without his tweezers.
But, they’re not for good luck or personal grooming. They’re a necessity.
The 55-year-old Raleigh, North Carolina resident, dubbed “The Barefoot Bandito,” has been running marathons barefoot for the past two years and knows a thing or two about splinters.
“There were two marathons where I stepped on a small piece of glass that wedged itself inside the forefoot of my soles. My trusted tweezers could not dig it out and rather than waste valuable time and risk missing the cutoff time, I just continued running for the remaining four miles to finish the race. It was a painful run, but I managed to finish both races just in time before the cutoff,” said Vega.
“My trusted tweezers were actually put to good use when I ran the Day of the Dead Marathon in Las Cruces, New Mexico. It was a 12 loop course located alongside the Rio Grande River, but it was littered with goat heads. During the entire race, I counted on stepping on about 50 of these goat heads.”
Now, Vega, who holds the Guinness World Record for “Most barefoot marathons run in on consecutive days (male), is gearing up for the 6th Annual Marathon Bahamas this Sunday.
The Philippines native explained that his decision to run barefoot started out as a dare during his 5oth marathon.
“I had brought only four pairs of Vibram FiveFingers (a type of minimalist shoe designed to replicate being barefoot) and each pair is only good for one marathon before needing to be washed because of the stench,” he said.
“Anyway, I joked around with the other runners that I didn’t have any shoes to wear for my last marathon of the year and that I may just have to run it barefoot. They dared me to go ahead and why not make a splash for my 50th and last marathon of the year. I took them up on it and decided that if I was going to do this, then I would dedicate my first barefoot marathon in honor of my late mother and father.”
What he didn’t count on was the temperature dipping to the mid-30s on race morning.
“My feet began feeling numb even before the start of the race. It was too late to change my mind and besides, I am not one to back out of a dare,” he said. “Anyway, it only took about a couple miles and I was able to feel my feet again. One of the first things I noticed while running barefoot was how much attention it garnered, hence, making me feel like a rock star. I never realized how curious it made everybody, from the student volunteers manning the aid stations to the veteran marathoners. They all wanted to know how my feet felt.”
Vega says he enjoyed his first barefoot marathon so much, particularly the attention he received, that he decided to use the publicity for a higher purpose.
After some research, he stumbled upon Soles4Souls – a Nashville-based charity that provides shoes free of charge to children who cannot afford proper footwear. The shoes go a long way in helping children avoid contracting infectious diseases.
Vega said not only was Soles4Souls the perfect partner, but he can relate to the children the charity assists.
“You see, as a kid growing up in the Philippines, I would chuck my shoes and run around barefoot with the other kids who could not afford shoes. Although my family was not poor, I would play barefoot with my friends in order to fit in. As a result, I contracted hookworms and became infected with the deadly tuberculosis from a contagious neighbor who would spit blood on the grounds we played in,” he said.
“Had I not immigrated to Guam, USA at the age of six, I would have probably been dead by now. This is one of the main reasons why I am so passionate about my cause. It is said that to really understand someone you need to walk a mile in their shoes. Well, in my case, and for the cause that I represent, I decided to run and/or walk thousands of miles barefoot to honor these kids and to create awareness and let everybody know that there are over 300 million children worldwide who are without shoes or adequate footwear because they cannot afford them. To compound the problem, most countries, like the Philippines, will not allow children to attend school unless they wear shoes. This contributes to the vicious cycle of poverty.”
To date, Vega has participated in 203 full marathons and ultra marathons – 121 of which were run barefoot.
Now, the shoeless wonder will be leaving his footprint in The Bahamas.
“I decided to run the Marathon Bahamas because the Marathon Globetrotters, which I recently joined, will be holding its first annual meeting the day before the event. This will be my first time in The Bahamas and I am looking forward to visiting the island,” he said.
Vega also has a secret and is planning to make a big splash right after he crosses the finish line.
However, fans will have to tune in on January 18 for the big reveal.
For more information or to register for Marathon Bahamas, visit www.marathonbahamas.com.
Online registration closes on Wednesday, January 14.