A Spanish long-distance runner named Dr Daniel Amo, 42, has run three marathons completely barefoot to help gain support for an animal shelter and raise awareness on the importance of maintaining biodiversity in the planet.
Dr Amo has a doctorate in education and teaches at the Ramon Llull University. He lives in the city of Badalona located in the Spanish autonomous community of Catalonia with his wife and two daughters and where he developed his passion for sports and running which has accompanied him his entire life.
He spoke with Real Press and delved into some of the hardships he suffered during the personal challenge and the messages he hopes to promote after running three marathons over three Saturdays totalling about 132 km ( 82 miles) totally barefoot.
He said he has been running completely barefoot for one year now after having started to remove protective layers from his feet four years ago, which started as a form of physical therapy to help relieve pain in his feet caused by his high arches.
When the nation-wide lockdown in Spain ended, Dr Amo paired up with an animal shelter foundation called DAINA which helps abandoned animals find shelter and stay healthy.
He started running for them to raise awareness on the need for protecting our animals and to promote the adoption of different dogs on Saturdays in the month of June. He reached as many as 40,000 people over three weekends on social media during his weekend runs.
That is when he decided to start looking for new ways in which he could reach even more people. He later realised that the three shelters the NGO uses were separated by about 40 km each which roughly equalled the distance of a marathon.
That is how Dr Amo conjured up the challenge of running three marathons taking place over three Saturdays totalling about 82 miles, all the while being totally barefoot as he travelled across mountainous terrain and long stretches of asphalt.
He said he cried tears of joy and pain during the many ups and downs he went through during the run but that this is totally normal for himself and other runners who run such long distances.
He admitted the challenge was not too difficult but that is in large part thanks to his team supporting him during the runs and the support system he had in his friends, family and social media which kept him encouraged the whole time.
Dr Amo said he had an auspicious start after it rained for a part of the first phase which helped deal with the abrasive surface of the asphalt on his feet
However, the second phase was a far greater challenge and even reached a moment when the run could potentially be cancelled about 10 km (miles) from the finish line when several blisters on his feet caused him serious pain.
He said that despite being accustomed to running barefoot on mountainous terrain, the asphalt proved to be much more painful a surface, explaining that though he expected blisters, he did not expect to have as many or to have them hurt as much.
Further complicating the challenge was the fact he also had to deal with interview questions and even brief photo shoots mid-run to help promote the event.
However, after stopping for a moment to rest and cover his feet with mud, he decided to push on and was able to grind it out for the last few miles completing the second and most challenging phase even after destroying his feet.
Dr Amo went on to say that after some intense rehabilitation, he was able to complete the third and final phase without a hitch and did not feel any pain or discomfort once he finished the challenge on 24th October.
One of the main goals for the runs was to help the animal shelter get to 2,000 volunteers to commit to donating a small sum of money every month which number currently stands at 1,423 people, almost 300 of whom joined from the three marathon runs.
He said that despite still not having reached his goal, he is very happy that almost 300 people joined the cause which isn’t just for money donations but are commitments to donate EUR 1 to the organisation for the rest of their lives so long as they are able.
The money will go to paying the salaries of veterinarians which will have the added benefit of freeing up funding to help in other activities for the organisation. Dr Amo said he is also happy that his runs raised awareness which could in turn help for further adoptions or donations somewhere down the line.
Dr Amo said: “The best moment is when I arrived and saw all the dogs because it reminds you of what cause you are fighting for. If I didn’t have a clear and sincere objective, I would have quit after the first phase.”
When asked why he chose this cause he said it is because he hopes to help unite humans to the environment which we have “disrespected” along with the biodiversity and animals that make it up.
He said: “The fact I am fighting for animals also helps me promote the message that we are dehumanising ourselves in some ways.”
He added: “We are acclimatising ourselves to the floors of our cities instead of finding a sustainable way of working with the environment. What we are doing is destroying nature.”
He explained he first became aware of barefoot running after he was given shoe insoles by doctors to help deal with pain after runs caused by the high arches on his feet and the fact he has one leg slightly longer than the other. However, he could not believe that there was no way for the human body to deal with the issues itself.
After investigating, he decided to give barefoot running a try and found it not only helped him but turned him into a big proponent of walking and running barefoot as it “can even help prevent some injuries”. He said he considers it to be “the best thing in the world” and the “most natural thing for us” saying that wearing shoes is “anti-natural” despite a lot of the science on the issue stating the opposite.
Dr Amo is still in talks with his team as to the next challenge he will face with a few options on the table. He said the likeliest event will involve him running about 600 km around the Spanish autonomous community of Catalonia at some point in 2021, however, it will be subject to the safety measures imposed at the time and how the situation with the pandemic develops in Spain.
However, despite not yet knowing what the challenge will be, he assures he plans to do at least one event in the year to continue to spread his message of caring more for our environment and the importance of taking care of our animals.