Debbie Bosilevac, Primalfoot Alliance advisory board member and experienced ultra marathon runner, recently set what is believed to be a women's record by running barefoot for 76.62 miles (123.31 km) in 24 hours. No other woman is known to have run as far in a single event while barefoot. Bosilevac completed the effort on an approximately three-mile out-and-back course of concrete sidewalks and grass in Olathe, Kansas, on Saturday, May 12.
Several factors motivated her to do the run. It was this year's iteration of her tradition to run an ultra on Mother's Day weekend. More importantly, though, she did it to prove something to her three daughters - and to some extent, herself.
"We're all stronger than we think we are," she said at about the 70-mile mark, while wiping tears from her eyes, "and I want my kids to know that."
Her tears were from the emotions she was feeling, not from her feet - which were, admittedly, hurting quite a bit by that distance.
"We all have hard times, and I think that there's a difference between people who give up and who don't. And I think that you need to know that about yourself - that you don't have to give up. You have more left."
Her run began at 12:26 p.m. on Friday and concluded exactly one day later. While the first four or five hours were "fun," according to her, she did struggle with bouts of nausea and exhaustion. The drive chain for her spotter's bicycle jammed up at one point as well, but was eventually fixed. Despite those setbacks, Bosilevac holds an unofficial record for barefoot running by a woman.
"This has been an interesting experience," she said. "It's an experiment of wanting to conquer the least likely way that man was intended to go barefoot - on a sidewalk. On a crusty, textured sidewalk - with gravel. My feet have held up well. It's just been interesting to sort of tackle that."
Two days later, she shared how her feet were recovering very well, "I have never had this few problems when running distance before. Ever. I think it was the lack of shoes." On her blog post about the experience, she elaborated. "Most of the foot issues I have had in ultras are due to friction from shoes."
When asked what she'd say to those who claim people aren't meant to go barefoot on sidewalks or other hard man-made surfaces, she said, "Yes, if you wear shoes every day and never exercise those muscles, you certainly weren't, but you can be. It's easy to do. I routinely walk my dogs and run the sidewalks barefoot. And that's just fine."
"She swears by her heels - swears by them - and she's had a lot of foot pain lately. She came out to run the dogs earlier and decided not to put her shoes back on. And she had no pain running, which was a first for her in a long time."
Bosilevac shared what she believes is the bigger picture of going barefoot.
"It's very child-like. I think that one of the problems in the world today is that we try so hard not to be child-like anymore. That's really sad that we've lost that, because that's one of the great joys in life - is to retain that childhood joy."
She will be sharing about her 24-hour barefoot ultra marathon on Saturday, May 26, at the local event for Your Day Without Shoes 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri. More information about that event and other YDWS topics can be found at YourDayWithoutShoes.com.