When running to Argentina, who needs shoes?

  • Monday, October 7, 2013

Joseph Michael Kai-Tsu Liu stopped in Georgetown while running from his home in Montreal, Canada, to Ushuaia, Argentina. CHRIS SOKOLOSKI/TIMES

As if running from Canada to Argentina is not challenging enough, Joseph Michael Kai-Tsu Liu is doing it barefoot.
Liu passed through Georgetown County last week on his way from his home in Montreal, Canada, to Ushuaia, Argentina, one of the southern-most cities on the planet.
“It's a lifetime experience,” Liu said during a rest stop in Georgetown.
The trip is also a fundraiser. Liu is raising money for a different educational foundation in every country he is passing through.
In Canada, the foundation was Pathways to Education, which works with high school students from lower income families to keep them from dropping out of school.
In America, the foundation is The Edible Schoolyard Project, which teaches students to grow and cook their food, thereby offering a healthier alternative to the traditional public school lunch.
“What I'm looking for in education and foundations is something that compliments the traditional education, things that are not taught in traditional schools,” Liu said.
When he first started talking about the trip his family thought it was “cool,” but most didn't believe he would go through with it until July 2, the day he left.
It took a year to plan the approximately 12,000-mile trip, which Liu expects will take almost two years to complete.
When he started out he had about 300 songs to listen to on his phone. He got sick of those pretty quickly, and has since downloaded Songza, which offers a wide variety of musical styles to fit his moods.
Liu tries to run about 15 to 25 miles a day, although he's done as many as 33 miles. He does not run every day. He spent a week in Great Barrington, Mass., and a week in New York City.
Monday was a light day, just 11 miles from Pawleys Island to Georgetown.
“It depends on how tired I am, emotionally how I feel, how far the next town is, how hot it is,” Liu said.
Weather is a major factor in Liu's schedule and he's trying to get through the United States and into Mexico before it gets too cold.
After spending the night at the Baymont Inn and Suites in Georgetown, Liu headed on foot to Charleston, where he will hop on a bus to Atlanta to run a half marathon. He also made appearances at sporting goods stores to raise money and support his sponsors, and was interviewed at CNN headquarters. The cable news giant has been following his progress since he left Montreal.
The room at Baymont Inn and Suites was arranged by Liu's brother in Mexico, who is helping him out with travel arrangements. Liu tries to get free rooms at hotels when possible, but also camps out a lot and relies on the kindness of strangers. He uses www.couchsurfing.com to find people to stay with.
“Every day I don't know where I'm going to stay,” Liu said.
Sometimes one connection leads to another. A couple he stayed with in Raleigh, N.C., had friends in Wilmington, N.C., who let him stay there.
He has also had luck finding restaurants that will give him free meals. While he was enjoying a free meal at a Texas Roadhouse in Virginia, the manager called the manager of the Texas Roadhouse in Myrtle Beach, who agreed to give him a free meal when he arrived. The wait staff at the Myrtle Beach restaurant gave him a $50 donation and one waitress gave him a place to sleep. When he arrived at her home, she had gifts for him such as a blanket, T-shirt and shampoo.
“Those things are not expected,” Liu said. “They're just amazing.”
He also got to skydive for free in Myrtle Beach. The owners of the skydiving company gave him a place to stay for the night and put him in touch with their friends in Charleston who offered him a place to stay there.
When he arrived at the Baymont Inn and Suites, there was a bag full of healthy snacks courtesy of the hotel staff waiting for him.
Liu said he tries to consume 6,000 calories on days when he's running. When he first started he wasn't concerned with what he ate, but after a week of eating junk food in New York City caused his running to suffer, he now tries to eat healthier foods.
When he's not running, he's updating his blog, Tweeting, answering emails and making plans with his brother for where he's going stay at future stops.
Other than dealing with a blister he developed the day before he started his trip, Liu has had only mild injuries, mostly muscle pain.
He's been running barefoot for years so the trip has not taken the toll on the bottom of his feet that it would an average runner.
Liu has enjoyed the past three months of meeting new people and seeing new places.
“When you travel you learn a lot,” he said, “and do things you have never done.”

Follow or donate

After the United States, Liu's trip will take him through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile, before ending in Argentina.
To follow Liu's progress, or make a donation, go to www.runningtotheendoftheworld.com. The website also has links to the foundations Liu is supporting.

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