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Barefoot racer puts his heart into marathon

by: JOHN D. FERGUSON World Sports Writer
11/15/2008  12:00 AM

Rick Roeber has taken foot racing competition too literally. Roeber will run in the third Route 66 Marathon barefoot.

When Sunday's start gun goes off for the 2,300 runners, Roeber will shed his warm socks and hit the streets. This is Roeber's 40th marathon without shoes.

Roeber isn't crazy, really. He runs without shoes because it is easier on his knees. The Lee Summit, Mo., project manager is also running for charity.

Is there a temperature limit to running barefoot?

"I go down to about 10 degrees, and snow can't be any more than ankle-deep," Roeber said. "I take some old clothes and sweats to the starting line. I usually come down incognito and throw things off before the race."

Roeber, 52, decided to run for charity when running held little meaning to him. He prayed for guidance and came up with running for others.

"I'm on a free wheelchair mission this year," Roeber said. "For $50, you can change someone's life in third-world countries. I am trying to raise $10,000 and have $3,000 now. That is my quest and I run eight barefoot marathons to raise money. That's where I am today."

Route 66 Marathon director Chris Lieberman appreciates Roeber's participation.

"As one of the most prolific barefoot marathoners in America, we are proud to have Rick run his 40th barefoot race in the Route 66 Marathon," Lieberman said. "We certainly support his charities (tulsaworld.com/barefootrunner), too."

Roeber came to Tulsa because of what he had heard about the Route 66.

"The marathon has gotten some kudos in the marathon community," Roeber said. "The word is out that it's a first-class marathon."

His leather-skinned feet got a marathon start in October 2003. Roeber had stress fractures in his knee and was overstriding. Running without shoes shortened his stride and took care of tender knees.

"By April 2004, I ran my first marathon (in Boston)," Roeber said.

"Ever since I have not run one with shoes. My 40th (marathon) is in Tulsa. I run barefoot everyday. If too cold, I go to the treadmill in the basement."

When told that Tulsa had just passed a major street bond issue to help crumbling avenues, Roeber just laughed it off. Roeber said his feet were tough and he's run on worse.

"I'll tell you how bad they are after the marathon," Roeber joked.

"It's only 26 miles, it can't be that bad. In Columbia, Mo., that course has 3 miles of gravel."

Roeber's effort for charity is more than just a footnote.

John D. Ferguson 581-8358

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