ST. MARYS — A young woman is currently on the road to accomplish a feat that many have on their bucket lists— seeing the country. But she is doing it a different way — on foot.
Rae Heim, an 18 year old from Iowa, is running her way across the United States to benefit others.
Heim recently stopped in St. Marys, where she visited The Evening Leader office. She left for Indiana Wednesday morning.
“My goal is to have a good time and enjoy it and to just see the country,” she said. “But my goal is also to raise money for Soles4Soles, too.”
A barefoot runner, Heim began her journey in Boston, Mass., on April 1 and is heading west to finish it in Huntington Beach, Calif.
“I should be getting there the first week of November,” she said.
On her blog, Flavors.Me/RaeAinslee, Heim noted what made her decide to run across America.
“When I was 15 years old, I became passionate about something that I never thought to be possible,” she wrote. “I entered a seven-mile road race on a whim; I entered about three hours before the race was scheduled to begin. I had never run more than a mile and absolutely hated the thought of pounding the pavement. But somewhere and somehow during those ridiculously hilly seven miles in Davenport, Iowa, I fell in love with the very concept of running.”
Since that race, Heim has finished five half marathons and two full marathons, the last three of which she ran fully barefoot.
“I continue to be amazed each time I cross the finish line,” Heim wrote. “I never thought I would even run two miles. I had an epiphany of sorts about five months ago. I finally realized why I was running, what my purpose behind it was. I want to help people. I want to make my running have an impact on other people’s lives. I want to tie my running into the souls of others.”
After deciding to begin her trek, Heim wanted to tie it in with helping others. To do that, she teamed up with the Christian organization Soles4Souls.
“I’ve done a lot of marathons and half marathons, and they usually have a booth set up at the expos,” Heim told The Evening Leader. “A couple years ago, they were set up next to my mom’s booth. When I was doing this, I felt like it was a great opportunity to help people, and I want to do that.”
Originally, Heim said she wanted to partner up with TOMS Shoes — with every pair of TOMS shoes purchased, a pair is given to a child in need — to see if TOMS would donate a pair of shoes for every mile that she did.
“But then as I was in the middle of writing them a letter, I remembered Soles4Souls,” she said. “It’s like literally every dollar equals a pair of shoes for them, so I thought I would get a lot more out of that than if I would’ve gone with TOMS.”
Through fundraising efforts, Soles4Souls has given more than 3.5 million pairs of shoes to those in need.
“I really like that it’s literally every dollar equals a pair of shoes,” Heim said. “Like it’s all of the donations go to the people getting the shoes.”
Before leaving from Massachusetts, Heim worked as a manager at Anytime Fitness in Las Vegas, where she trained for her journey.
“I did a lot of running,” she said. “You can’t really train for this, you just have to run.”
Heim follows a route she made before she began. She primarily uses highways and back county roads to get to her next stop.
“I kind of did a rough draft, and I printed it up for my mom,” she said of her route. “I lived in Vegas at the time and she was still in Iowa, and she found places for me to stay along the way. I kind of edited a little bit.”
Heim said she makes sure she rests each evening, and she said she has been staying with friends or friends of friends along the way.
“I have a couple rest days built in, but I run pretty much every day,” she said. “I have one or two rest days every week.”
Heim said she averages 20 miles a day, and she will “pretty much run through everything.”
Heim noted one of her favorite memories so far on her journey — a stop she made in Pennsylvania.
“Probably my favorite part was when I was in Philly because I finished that day on the Rocky steps, so I ran up and down those,” she said.
Overall, Heim said she likes the feeling that running gives her.
“I just feel so free when I’m running,” she said. “I just really like that freedom.”
Anyone who wants to donate to Rae’s trip expenses or to Soles4Souls, can do so on her blog Flavors.Me/RaeAinslee. People can also join Heim on her journey through her Tumblr at RaesRunAcrossAmerica.Tumblr.com or by following Rae’s Run Across America on Facebook.