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Barefoot Runner From IGH Breezes Through 20-Mile Bear Water Run

Inver Grove Heights resident Steve Modica finished the Bear Water Run in 3:03:13—good enough for 54th place out of 82 runners in his age group.

At 8 a.m. Sunday morning, 534 runners set off around White Bear Lake for the 12th Annual Bear Water Run, sponsored by the White Bear Lake Lion's Club. 

The Bear Water Run is a U.S. Track & Field (USATF) sanctioned event that offers both 10- and 20-mile distances, and was designed to "benefit multiple charitable organizations." 

Of the 534 runners that finished the race, seven were from Inver Grove Heights, and of those seven, only one ran the 20-mile race barefooted. 

Steve Modica—IGH resident and 44-year-old chief technical officer at Small Tree Communications—believes patience is the most important factor in training one's body to run barefoot.

"I started barefooting on a treadmill because I didn't like wearing out shoes when I was running on a rubber mat ... that's when I realized how different it was," Modica told Patch. "You have to run up on the balls of your feet. My calves and tendons became very sore and then got very strong. After a couple years of this, I moved it outside this year so I could use a GPS tracker to better track my speed and performance." 

Modica finished the 20-mile course in 3:03:13—an average pace of around 9-minute miles—and, amazingly, didn't cut, scrape or "wear through" the calluses on his feet. 

"The feet are a little 'burny' (today) but I didn't wear through anywhere. Honestly, the feet weren't my greatest challenge," Modica said. "I came out too fast and burned out at about 13 miles. I needed to run slower at the beginning!"  

Despite being among the small, but growing, population of barefoot endurance runners, Modica insists that anyone could do it.

"I think anyone could get to running (barefoot) outside in about a year," Modica said. "You'd start with Vibrams for short distances until your tendons and calves stopped hurting. Then you'd ditch the shoes and run until the blisters went away. Then you'd find some really smooth asphalt (like Rich Valley Blvd) to run on." 

Congratulations to the following IGH runners who also finished the Bear Water Run (a complete list of results is available here):

  • Jesus Cabanas, 32 (2:33:10) 54th overall
  • Ryan Chermak, 27 (2:33:30) 58th overall
  • Heather Walseth, 35 (2:37:21) 80th overall
  • Gwen Wild, 54 (2:55:37) 196th overall
  • Julie Fischbach (3:54:59) 494th overall
  • Lavern Chiotti, 60 (4:19:44) 523rd overall
Bill Babcock September 17, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Congratulations on a job well done! I have been running barefoot for 3.5 years and love it. No more shoes for me.
Steve Modica September 17, 2012 at 09:44 PM
I've only been running outside this year. I was barefoot on the treadmill the two years before. Rich Valley Blvd down to Hwy 42 is a great long run on some clean pavement.
Jeff Roberts (Editor) September 17, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Kind of a tough thing to wrap my head around. I'm quite familiar with the concept. I've read all the articles and they make sense. For a guy that suffers from plantar fasciitis, and experiences quite a bit of heel pain, the idea of taking off my shoes to do anything freaks me out. Perhaps that's part of the process of recreating one's running gait. Keep up the good work fellas!
Steve Modica September 18, 2012 at 12:19 AM
http://barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/4BiomechanicsofFootStrike.html Check this link out.
Jeff Roberts (Editor) September 18, 2012 at 01:16 AM
That is great, Steve. Thanks for the link. Seems like the issues I have are actually corrected if I focus on a more efficient foot strike.
Jeff Roberts (Editor) September 18, 2012 at 01:17 AM
One more thing, did you just one day shun the shoes and jump into vibram five fingers?
Jeff Roberts (Editor) September 18, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Hey Bill, what was your transition into barefoot like? Did you start on a treadmill like Steve or just the road?
Steve Modica September 18, 2012 at 10:47 AM
I was wearing out my last pair of ASICs (on the treadmill) and decided I wanted to try a minimalist shoe, so I found vibrams. I didn't like them at first. I almost returned them. I gave them a second chance and that was it! No looking back.
Jim Guttmann October 02, 2012 at 01:24 AM
For anyone who would like to bare their soles but travel at a more leisurely pace, please consider joining us – the Barefoot Hikers of Minnesota. We are a group of people who enjoy hiking nature trails with naturally bare feet. There are no membership dues or fees to pay. All that’s needed are a set of bare feet and a desire to share hiking experiences with others. For more information, check out our website at www.bfhikersmn.org .

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