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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Conversation in Motion - Barefoot Todd: Part II

The idea of running a marathon might be unappealing to most people; however, it’s downright torturous if you consider running 26.2 miles barefoot. As previously posted, I had the opportunity to run along side a guy who’s done that very feat (I’m exerting extreme editorial restraint to avoid punnery here) 266 times.

He’s known as Barefoot Todd. Here’s his web site and paraphrased portions from our conversation in motion, as best I can remember. I was beginning to feel early signs of heat exhaustion.

ME: I remember at last year’s marathon event here in Frederick, Maryland someone was holding a sign that said something like “250 Marathons Barefoot – Congratulations Barefoot Todd.” That struck me at the time as an incredible achievement and I asked about your barefoot feat at the end of the race and the organizers confirmed it. How many marathons have you run since?
Barefoot Todd (BT): This (the Frederick Running Festival Marathon on 5/2/2010) is my 266th race barefoot. Running barefoot just feels more natural and once I started I’ve never stopped.

ME: How did you get started and when did you begin running?
BT: I ran track in high school and then I saw a movie in the early 1980’s that starred Bob Newhart called Marathon – it’s a great movie – and it’s about him and some buddies who try to run a marathon. Newhart’s character was the only one to finish, which inspired me. Shortly after that, I ran my first marathon barefoot in 1984.

ME: What’s your favorite marathon to run?
BT: Wow, that’s a tough question. I guess it depends on what you’re looking for. If it’s spectators and lots of runners, then either the NYC Marathon or the one in London, England. If you want the best vistas, than it has to be the Big Sur Marathon in Carmel, California – simply spectacular views of the Pacific. As far as best organized, I think the Marine Corp Marathon in DC is great – I mean it’s run by Marines, you can’t get more buttoned up than that. However, I think the Frederick Running Festival, the race we’re running now, is a hidden gem and I run it every year.

ME: Why is that?
BT: I was born in West Virginia, so I consider it my hometown marathon. Additionally, I’m able to stay and visit with my twin sister. We have a great time together, she comes out to the race and holds up signs – she’s always been really supportive.

ME: What do you do for a living?
BT: I’m a running coach at a university in California, which is where I live.

ME: Running barefoot, what’s the worst injury you’ve suffered?
BT: Oddly, the worst running injury I’ve suffered occurred above my shoulders. During my earlier years, I was in a race that was really hot – just like today. At mile 21, a volunteer gave me a big cup of water with ice. To cool off, I splashed it on my face and shook my head. Since I hadn’t moved my neck much during that race a pulled a muscle. That was the worst.

ME: What’s the best way to recover from the mini-trauma that a marathon induces?
BT: That’s really subjective. Personally I use ice on trouble spots or an ice bath if I’m really achey. That’s what works for me.

ME: Why do you do it? Why run barefoot?
BT: Why does anybody do anything?

Touché, I say – that word seems doubly appropriate in print since it contains the word “ouch.”


  1. Great interview, Tor. I'd be so exhausted at mile 21, I wouldn't be able to say my name let alone hold a conversation!

    By the way, as soon as I saw your blog I realized I had been in your neck of the woods! I guess I was just too busy pretending to be a correspondent on The Hill. My in-laws live in Delaware, so I'm there every so often. If there's a race the next time I come, we should totally do it!