Saunders: It's good to do the right thing, just for its own sake

07/09/2014 5:46 PM

07/10/2014 6:26 AM

There’s always a risk, when you walk or run barefoot, of stepping into something.

When I wrote last month about Eddie Vega, the barefoot marathoner from Raleigh, he talked about all of the unsavory things he’d felt squishing between his toes while trying to set the world record for most marathons completed in a year without shoes.

Last week, while running in Long Beach, Calif., Vega stepped into something he’d never stepped into before – the record book.

Yep, Vega, known as the Barefoot Bandito, officially became the first person to run 50 barefoot marathons in one year — and the year is barely half over. Fifty was the minimum number to set the record, so he said he won’t submit his achievement for certification from the Guinness Book of World Records until the end of the year.

Vega told me Wednesday that he’ll continue running marathons until Dec. 31 to add to his total and to make sure his record stays “in the books for years to come... The way to do that is to make it nearly impossible for anybody else to break it.”

Here’s the deal. If Vega were running — barefoot or shod — simply for exercise or as an exercise in self-aggrandizement, his story would still be kind of interesting, but not something with which I’d waste your time.

That he is running as part of a humanitarian mission, as a way to raise awareness and money for shoes for children who have none, makes his achievement compelling and laudable and something to celebrate. His goal, he said, is to raise enough money in each marathon for 300 pairs of shoes. Each dollar he raises buys one pair of shoes, according to the Soles for Souls charity website.

Kelly Modena, fundraising specialist for Soles for Souls, an international nonprofit group that provides shoes for poor kids around the world, called Vega an ambassador for the organization when I spoke to her in June. Vega, she said, spends his own money to travel to marathons around the world and hands out business cards instructing curious people — “Why is that dude running barefoot?” — to donate to her group.

A matter of record

Running 50 marathons in a lifetime is impressive, and 50 in a year is even more so. I, myself, however, own two world records, but when I called for my medal the people at Guinness refused to acknowledge either. Actually, the lady hung up.

My two unequalled achievements: most glazed doughnuts eaten in Krispy Kreme’s parking lot with the engine running, but without actually driving off — 17 — and most consecutive telephone calls being rejected by women on a Saturday night while looking for a date. My buddies Doug and Reginald were the only witnesses and they watched in pity, then shame, then awe as I got shot down 11 times in a row within 20 minutes. I kept dialing, though.

“Man,” Doug said, “I’d be rolled up in a fetal position” if he’d gotten shot down that many times.

Alas, there are no medals given for perseverance displayed in the face of repeated rejections.

There should be.

If you want to put shoes on a barefoot child, send some money to

Vega, who works in IT, said he plans to “put icing on the cake” by running 50 more marathons this year, to make sure his record is untouchable. He said he often sleeps in his car or in airports while traveling to marathons. He seldom gets to lie down in a bed while on his quest.

Blessing in a place to sleep

Someone who will get to lie down in a bed, a new bed, is Almetta Herring’s six-year-old son. Last week, I told you about the Fuquay Varina woman’s travails when some bogus bed bamboozler bilked customers at The Capital Mattress store on Glenwood Avenue of their money and delivered no beds.

Chris Wilder, the owner of the store, which is not related to The Capital Mattress store in Wake Forest, left owing the building’s owner mucho dinero, too.

Herring, a single mother with circulation problems in her legs and who works a temp job, had put two beds on layaway and went to pick up the one for her son two weeks ago. She found a nearly empty store and a locked door.

Since then, she has gone from stressed and distressed to blessed. She told me Tuesday that the district manager at the Mattress Firm across Glenwood Avenue from the bad bed store has given her a bed set for her son and is going to allow her to purchase a bed similar to the “sleep number” joint she was paying on to the brazen bed bandit. The $200 of which she was bilked will be applied to her new purchase. Wow.

“They called and told me to come and pick one out and they’ll deliver it Saturday,” she told me. “That was my blessing, right there.”

That was our blessing, too. I have no scientific data to back this up, but I think it sends good karma into the universe — karma that can touch all of us —when a person or company does something good for someone, for no reason other than it’s a good thing to do.

Saunders: 919-836-2811 or

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