Fil-Am to run 'barefoot marathon' in Antarctica for a cause

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If running a marathon seems daunting, imagine running it barefoot.

Former Guam resident Eddie Vilbar Vega was the only barefoot runner in the eight-year history of the marathon. Vega runs barefoot to bring attention to impoverished children in Pacific islands and Asia who don't have shoes.
Former Guam resident Eddie Vilbar Vega was
the only barefoot runner in the eight-year
history of the marathon. Vega runs
barefoot to bring attention to impoverished
children in Pacific islands and Asia who
don't have shoes.
Former Guam resident Eddie Vilbar Vega, 53, has run three marathons in his bare feet since Dec. 30, 2012, and he plans to be the first person ever to run a marathon barefoot in Antarctica when he competes in the 2013 White Continent Marathon, Tuesday (Guam time) on King George Island.

According to the marathon's official website, the latest weather forecast is for mostly cloudy skies with a high near 37 degrees Fahrenheit.


In a Philippine online news, it said Vega will run barefoot in Antarctica to help raise funds for Gawad Kalinga and seek a Guinness World Record, saying “I think it is fitting that I dedicate this run to GK, as my first marathon was for GK."

Eddie Vilbar Vega will be the first man to run a full marathon barefoot in Antarctica.

"I'm just hoping and praying that we do not get any snow and the temperatures remain above freezing," Vega said.


So far, Vega has completed 65 marathons and eight ultra-marathons, but as mentioned previously, he ran three of the 26.2-mile races barefoot.

Vega's newfound love of running barefoot is the focal point of a nonprofit he set up in honor of his late mother and father -- Rita Vilbar Vega and Charlie Vega.

"Our families grew up two houses away in Jonestown," said Jojo Santo Tomas, a magazine writer for the Pacific Daily News.

He added that he was closer in age to Eddie Vilbar Vega's sister Virgie, but he does remember seeing Eddie stretching out before or after one of his runs.

"But barefoot marathons? That's news to me. Good luck, Ed!" Santo Tomas added.

"I started a nonprofit foundation in 2006 called the Rita Vilbar Vega Foundation to raise funds for impoverished children in the Pacific islands and in the Philippines who have little or no shoes, clothes or school supplies," Eddie Vilbar Vega said.

He added that the foundation provides assistance to rural elementary schools in the Philippines with funding to help pay for special projects, events and programs that include classrooms, laptops and scholarships.

According to a 2011 news article published by a Philippine news company called "The Freeman," Eddie Vilbar Vega donated 75 laptops and two classroom buildings to schools in the Barangays Lunang, Talisay and Agutayan provinces in the Philippines.

"I would like to emphasize one thing and that is 100 percent of all the donations I receive goes directly to the foundations and not a single penny would be spent to fund any of my marathon-related activities," Eddie Vilbar Vega said.

Eddie Vilbar Vega is the president and chief executive officer of Vega Enterprises, an information technology consulting company specializing in Medicaid management information systems for the North Carolina state government. The company is based in Raleigh.

He also owns a Philippine recruitment agency, which supplies skilled manpower in engineering, health care, construction, information technology and banking for companies in the Middle East and Asia.

"One hundred percent of my traveling expenses and registration fees for marathons all come out of my own personal funds," he said.

Eddie Vilbar Vega said that actions speak louder than words, so he wants to be a light that shines for the children.

"My journey would never end because there would always be a poor kid somewhere around the world without shoes to wear," he added.

"If it is any consolation, I feel like a rock star when running barefooted because I get all the attention from spectators and other runners," Eddie Vilbar Vega said.

During the Bermuda Triangle Marathon in Hamilton, Bermuda, on Jan. 20, Eddie Vilbar Vega said the last five miles of the race were "excruciating."

"My feet felt so raw and tender that I tiptoed my way to the finish line," he said.

Spectators frequently asked him: "Where are your shoes?"

He replied jokingly, "I didn't want to get my shoes wet!"

Excruciating pain

Eddie Vilbar Vega said the most painful marathon he ran was the Sedona Marathon held Feb. 2 in Sedona, Ariz.

"I trekked a 13.1-mile rocky, dirt-gravel road and on top of that, a 6.5-mile asphalt terrain," he said.

"I felt like I was dancing more than I was running by trying to avoid the rocks, which was basically impossible," he added.

During the race, his blisters broke open to expose raw flesh on the soles of his feet.

"Throughout the race I kept telling myself that this would be good training for me in case I ever was a prisoner of war because I would be able to endure such torture," he said with a laugh.

All in all Eddie Vilbar Vega crossed the finish line, clocking in at 6 hours and 58 minutes, just two minutes before the race's cutoff time.

"That was close!"

Up next

Three days after the White Continent Marathon, Eddie Vilbar Vega plans to run another marathon barefoot in Punta Arenas, Chile, followed by a marathon in Little Rock, Ark.

A week after that, he finally will attempt to run his first 100-miler along the coast of North Carolina as a fundraiser for the 1975 to 1978 John F. Kennedy High School reunion scheduled for July 2014.

Eddie Vilbar Vega has conquered 44 U.S. states, two continents (North America and Asia) and four countries (Canada, China, Mexico and the Philippines) and the British overseas territories of Bermuda and Cayman Islands as a runner.

All those marathons and ultra-marathons add up to approximately 1,992 miles, and he said that doesn't include all the runs he has done while training.

Eventually Eddie Vilbar Vega wants to finish off what he started by running barefoot in all 50 states as well as the seven continents. And when he completes that goal, he said, he would set a new challenge and attempt to conquer the world's 196 countries.

As a member of the Marathon Maniacs Club, Eddie Vilbar Vega became a 10-star titanium runner in October 2012 when he met the club's criteria of completing 30 marathons in 30 different states in a 365-day period.

With an average marathon time of 4:50 with shoes and 5:15 without, he is ranked 107th out of 6,700 members in the club, according to MMC's records.

Eddie Vilbar Vega said he feels really good about himself considering there are five members ranked lower than him who are current Guinness world-record holders.

According to the club's records, there are only 62 people who have completed marathons in all 50 states and seven continents.--Source: Guam PDN/ Photo courtesy of Nilda Sergio Birch






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