PLYMOUTH — Running nearly 3,000 miles is a feat for any athlete, but 18-year-old Rae Heim is taking it to the next level by hitting the road barefoot.
Heim, of Las Vegas, Nev., stopped in Plymouth this week for a quick break on her coast-to-coast run across America. She is staying with friends — and friends of friends of friends — along her journey in order to keep costs down. This week, she stayed with the Shidler family in Plymouth.
“For a young person to be doing this, she’s inspiring,” said Cindy Shidler Tuesday, after Heim had been staying with her for a few days. “She’s so motivated.”
Although Heim comes from a family of runners, she didn’t share in their hobby until just three years ago, when she entered a seven-mile race with her mother on a whim. The then 15-year-old had never run before, and said that she thought the sport was “awful.” Something changed on the road, however, and Heim fell in love with running. She began training for more events, and soon tucked several marathons under her belt.
Her decision to run across America came after meeting a 57-year-old man who had done it at a running event.
“I thought, if a 57-year-old man can do it, I can do it,” said Heim.
First intending to undertake the monumental journey just for fun, Heim realized that she could use the trip as an opportunity to help others. She did some research, and decided to support the non-profit organization “Soles4Souls” with her run. For every $1 that people donate through Heim’s website, the organization will provide one pair of shoes to someone in need. Since she began in March, Heim has raised about $1,800.
Heim first began running barefoot when she was healing from a broken toe. She took off her shoes to temporarily relive discomfort on her broken toe, and never put them back on.
“My feet were accustomed to barefoot running,” explained Heim. “If the road is too hot, I’ll wear socks, but the heat is really the only thing that bothers me. I’ve stepped on things, but nothing that’s pierced my skin because my feet are so calloused.”
A typical running day for Heim has her on the road by 8 a.m., and finished running by 2 or 3 p.m.
“I just run and enjoy the scenery,” said Heim. “If there’s something I want to take a picture of I’ll stop and take a picture of it. I’m not in a hurry.”
She plans her route along the way using Google Maps. Heim plans to finish in Huntington Beach, Cal. by November. Although this means nearly a year of being away from her friends and family, Heim said the journey is more than worth it.
“I’m socializing with all the people I meet along the way,” said Heim, smiling, but adding, “The hardest part is being away from my sister Kendall.”
Heim is falling into her scheduled routine of three running days, one rest day, four running days, two rest days — but it took a while for her to get used to this grueling pace.
“About four days into the run was not a very good day,” said Heim seriously. “I called my mom and sister in tears because I was so exhausted.”
Obviously grateful that the moment is in the past, Heim added, “They got me through it.”
She said her struggles are all worth it when she sees how many people have donated to her cause. Beyond donating to Soles4Souls, Heim hopes that people watching her journey will be inspired to reach for their personal goals.
“I just really feel that if you have a dream there is no limitation to it,” said Heim. “I started running three years ago and now I’m running across America. Good things will happen if you try your hardest.”
To donate to Soles4Souls on behalf of Heim, or to learn more about Heim and her journey, visit http://flavors.me/raeainslee .