What may have started as a personal adventure for 18-year-old Rae Heim has become so much more. Upon graduating high-school early this past January, Rae from Carroll, Iowa, decided that she wanted run across the United States, barefoot. It took some planning and a lot of convincing of her mother, but she hit the pavement in April and has been rocking the road ever since. Having started the run just to see if she could do it, Rae found a greater purpose for her plan… she is raising money for Soles4Souls, a charitable organization that collects new shoes and provides them to those in need.
“I had an epiphany of sorts… I want to make my running have an impact on other people’s lives. I want to tie my running into the soles of others,” Rae explains on her website. Starting in Boston on April 1st, Rae has since clocked over 1,500 miles and hopes to reach Huntington Beach, California by October. Upon her completion, Rae will be the youngest person to complete a coast to coast run across America, man or woman. So far she has raised $3,700 of her $5,000 goal. The irony of running barefoot to raise money for shoes isn’t lost on Rae, “Although I am a barefoot runner, I know shoes are important to people’s lives. After running 26.2 miles barefoot, it is very apparent how well off the majority of us are.”
Rae kicked-off her sneakers and started to run barefoot for comfort after breaking a toe last year, and has been running that way ever since. She firmly believes we were all born to run barefoot. And although she’d like to be running across America barefoot all of the time, there have been occasions where she has had to put her shoes back on to protect her feet from glass, nails and excessive heat on the pavement.
Self-admittedly Rae once hated running, and as a young girl she avoided it at all costs. That was until she realized that her lack of running gave the appearance to others that she just couldn’t do it. That’s all it took to get the then fifteen-year-old to take on the challenge and prove her naysayers wrong. She signed up for a local seven-mile race and before she crossed the finish line, she found herself “in love with her former enemy”. Prior to her cross-country trek, Rae had completed five half marathons and two full marathons.
Rae is averaging 20 miles a day and is carrying all she needs with her in a top of the line baby jogger. Most of the time she is alone, but occasionally met by friends or “solemates”, local folks who come out and run beside her, providing her with much needed encouragement and support. “The kindness I’ve seen in people surprised me. You always hear all the wrong with the world,” she said in a recent interview with the Des Moines Register, “but I’ve seen nothing but good in the world.”