DES MOINES, Iowa – An Iowa woman is running barefoot across the United States to raise money to provide shoes for needy children.
Rae Heim, 18, of Carroll, started her cross-country trek in Boston in April and hopes to reach Huntington Beach, Calif., in October.
The Des Moines Register caught up with her this week in Iowa as she crested a hill near Victor in 91-degree heat.
Heim stopped to talk but wasn't out of breath. She said she started running barefoot after breaking a toe last year and shedding her running shoes for comfort. Shoes now feel like dead weight to her, although she wore them through New Jersey, where broken glass and nails littered the highway, and dons them on gravel roads.
The bottoms of her feet are like slabs of leather. When they start burning in the heat, she puts on toe socks.
"We are born to run barefoot," Heim said.
She told the newspaper that she hated to run and even dreaded rounding the bases while playing softball.
"It was like a punishment," she said. But then Heim realized that people thought she couldn't run, and she set out to prove them wrong.
She entered road races and last summer met a middle-aged man who ran across America, which inspired her.
What started as a personal adventure has become a fundraiser for Soles4Souls, a charity that supplies shoes to needy kids.
"When I feel like quitting, I think of the $2,900 I have raised," Heim said. "That's 2,900 pairs of shoes."
There have been a few bumps during her trek.
After the first week of 40-plus mile days, she had a twisted ankle, painful Achilles tendon and sore knee. She sat on the side of the road, crying, and then called her mom.
"My parents taught us that you set your goals and don't give up," Heim said.
Now, she's averaging 20 miles a day. She carries her belongings in a backpack. Her mom watches her every move with a GPS and has friends set up along the route to check on her.
Heim said most of her journey has been pleasant.
"The kindness I've seen in people surprised me. You always hear all the wrong with the world," she said. "But I've seen nothing but good in the world."