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