By: Debbie Gross
Rae Heim, 18, of Carroll, began her cross country trek to Boston in April and expects to reach Huntington Beach, California, in October.
The news media met her in Iowa as she crested a hill near Victor in 91 degrees heat.
Heim stopped to talk, but she was out of breath. She said she started running barefoot after breaking a toe last year and throwing away her running shoes for comfort. Shoes now feel like a dead weight for her, although she did wear shoes when she ran through New Jersey, where broken glass and nails were scattered on the road, and wears them on the roads of gravel.
Her feet are like pieces of leather. When they start to burn in the heat, she puts on the toe socks.
"We were born to run barefoot," said Heim.
She told the news media that she hated and even feared running while playing softball.
"It was like a punishment," she said. But then she realized, people thought I could not run, and set out to prove them wrong.
She entered road races and last summer she met a middle aged man running across America, that inspired her.
What began as a personal adventure has become a fundraiser for Soles4Souls, a charity that provides shoes to needy children.
"When I feel like quitting, I think of the $2,900 I have raised so far," said Heim. "That is 2,900 pairs of shoes."
There have been a few bumps during her walk. After the first week of days running over 40 miles, I had a sprained ankle, Achilles tendon pain and knee pain. Shee sat on the roadside, crying, and then called her mom.
"My parents taught us to set goals and not give up," said Heim.
Now, she is running an average of 20 miles per day. She carries her belongings in a backpack. Her mother watches her every move with GPS and has friends situated along the route to check on her.
Heim said most of her trip was pleasant.
"The kindness I have seen people show me surprised me. I always hear of all the evil in the world," she said. "But I have not seen anything but good in my world."