Surf City runner Ken Saxton takes a different approach to running marathons
By Mike Sciacca, Independent
Ken Saxton has found a way to stand out in a crowd.
Not just any crowd a marathon.
Proving that no terrain is too tough, no surface too slick, the Huntington
Beach resident has accomplished what you might call a "feet of strength," on
more than one occasion.
On March 7, Saxton will run the L.A. Marathon the way he runs every other
He wouldn't have it any other way.
"Probably the most important aspect of running barefoot is that I can feel the
ground beneath my feet," the 48-year-old said. "It's more comfortable for me.
That first marathon I ever ran was my most painful and I had my slowest time
That run came in 1987, and Saxton wore shoes.
He hasn't worn a pair to run or, for much of anything else since.
"I had blisters from running that marathon in shoes," he said. "I had to walk
most of the last five mile or so, because my feet hurt so much from the
blisters caused by my shoes. After that, I started doing all my running
He took an 11-year hiatus from running marathons, then ran his next one in
After marrying Cathy Lee in 1990 both in bare feet during a ceremony at
Crystal Cove State Beach Saxton sold his car. The move motivated him to bike
and run an eight-mile trek one-way to work at Cal State Long Beach, where
he is an information technology consultant in the Department of Computer
Engineering and Computer Sciences.
He even is barefoot on campus, he said. His shoes, a pair of sandals, sit
"collecting dust" on his desk.
"I'm the guy who runs with the barefoot guy," said Al Valdez of Anaheim, who,
unlike Saxton, opts to wear running shoes. "We've trained off-and-on together
for the past seven years now. I'd say he's the closest thing I have to a
Valdez, who did a 17-mile run along the bike trail in Huntington Beach with
Saxton during a light rain on Sunday, says he first met Saxton at an
all-terrain trail run in Huntington Central Park.
"To be honest, he tried to recruit me for a barefoot race one year," Valdez
said. "I tried to train up for it, but it wasn't for me.
"For Ken, he lives that way. He's barefoot all the time. He's an easy guy to
like, a beloved campus eccentric at Long Beach State and a fixture in
Around Surf City, where he trains, and on the marathon circuit, Saxton's
gained the obvious nicknames: "the barefoot guy," "barefoot running man," and
"It's definitely brought me some attention," Saxton said of his barefoot
lifestyle. "Al and I have this running joke that he's faster than me, but he
doesn't get that much attention as I do."
If running barefoot wasn't enough, you will be able to pick Saxton out from
the L.A. Marathon crowd wearing what he calls his "crazy cap," a multicolored
hat with a propeller on its top.
"It aids me in my runs," Saxton said.
Saxton averages seven marathons per year, among them the Pacific Shoreline
Marathon in Huntington Beach.
Saxton and his wife, Cathy Lee, who is deaf, will run the L.A. Marathon on
The two first ran the marathon together in 2000 the same year, Saxton said,
he went the "entire year without shoes," save for a plane trip to Portland.
"I'm aiming to run one marathon per month this year," he said. "What I think
is most interesting, is that that first marathon, I was about 32 years old,
pretty much the typical marathon runner's prime.
"Eleven years later, at age 43, I was not only running marathons with less
pain but at a faster pace. I had also improved my 10k times from the lower to
mid-40-minute range, to the upper-30-minute range, with a personal record time
of 37:02 in 1999."
One question Saxton says people continually ask, is to see the bottoms of his
feet. Other than having to occasionally remove a shard of glass or thorn on
one of his runs, he has not suffered a serious foot injury since he began
"People are surprised that the bottoms are soft, like a glove, and not
calloused," said Saxton, who said he only owns three pairs of shoes.
"So few people in the United States actually learn to run well," he added.
"Not only do their feet suffer as a result, but also their knees, back and
particularly every joint in their body. The one certain thing shoes do when we
run, is allow us to run with less awareness that we are slamming our feet
'blindly' into the pavement.
"People often ask me if the impact while running barefoot is worse, but people
who I run past, rarely ask that, because they can't hear my feet landing on
the ground as I approach."
MIKE SCIACCA covers sports and features. He can be reached at (714) 965-7171
or by e-mail at michael.sciacca@...