The Wisdom of the Barefoot Runner

We were deeply saddened to learn of the recent death of Alberto Perusset, known as ‘Barefoot Alberto’. Alberto ran a world record 214 barefoot marathons, most recently the 2021 LA Marathon in November, a month before his death. We were honored to publish his beautiful words last year, and later learned he carried the article with him to show folks he met. We are reprinting the original piece in its entirety here. Rest in peace, Alberto.

We can sometimes find the most life-changing people in the most unlikely places.

Mr Feelgood co-founder John Pearson met Alberto Perusset in his local Whole Foods store, where Alberto works as a security guard.

John was drawn to his warmth and energy and they began exchanging their stories, and John learned that Alberto was, as he suspected on their first meeting, a wise sage with a wealth of knowledge to offer.

Alberto, 62, is the world record holder for running barefoot marathons, and has currently run 211 26-mile marathons on just the soles of his feet. And, including those he ran in shoes before committing to the barefoot style, he has ran 250 full marathons in total since his first in 2004.

When we first started brainstorming the kind of people we wanted to feature on Mr Feelgood, who we believed had stories, experiences and insight that could benefit us all, Alberto was one of the first names that came up.

So we’re delighted to today share the wisdom of the barefoot runner — known as ‘Barefoot Alberto’ — who moved from his homeland of Argentina to Malibu, California, 32 years ago.

And we don’t need to be a runner to learn from his words, as he explains how he has achieved his goals in life by focussing on his heart, mind and soul as much as his training regime and the soles of his feet.

Alberto Perusset // 📸: Austin Hargrave

Alberto Perusset // 📸: Austin Hargrave

By Alberto Perusset

Life is a gift. And the most precious commodity human beings have is time, because time that is wasted will never come back. So spend your time wisely in terms of activities and relationships. When I am running a marathon, I know I am spending my time wisely because it keeps me happy and healthy. And the running community is like a big family, so every time I go to a race I see all my friends.

I’ve run 250 full marathons. I ran my 250th in Long Beach, California, in March and then the pandemic came.  Before that, I had been running marathons every weekend for more than a year. And in November last year, I reached the world record for the most barefoot marathons. The world record was 202, and I’ve now ran 211.

Running barefoot is the natural way to run. And if you do the technique properly, it is the best way to run. After all, we were born barefoot. That’s how we were designed. Have you ever seen a baby born in Nikes? In my 211 barefoot marathons, I have never had any injuries or pain.

The problem with shoes is that people run on their heels and that brings knee and hip problems. Barefoot, you learn to run with the center of the feet so you have better protection.

Grounding yourself is extremely positive for the body and soul. On the soles of the feet are all your nerve terminals, all the organs connect with the soles of the feet. When you walk on the ground, you open all the energy channels and they go through you, from the earth to the universe, and it takes all the inflammation in the body down. I always say to people, if you have access to grass, even a little space, walk barefoot on the grass every day for a few minutes.

Alberto Perusset // 📸: Austin Hargrave

Alberto Perusset // 📸: Austin Hargrave

There are three things in the formula of being happy. The first, you have to know who you are. As Socrates said, ‘Know thyself.’ The second thing, live your life consciously, be conscious, be aware. And the third thing is be thankful for what you have. Every time I run a marathon I am thankful because I am healthy and I have the possibility to do it. And when you see life as a gift, your heart is full of gratitude. Always be thankful of what you have.

People think that their life is their problems, but that’s not true. Problems are a consequence of being alive, but that is not life. Problems come and go. They are like the clouds in the sky. We have big clouds and we have small clouds, and sometimes there’s a storm, but they always pass. And you should be like a solid mountain on the ground. The clouds don’t effect the mountain. And sooner or later the sun will come out again.

Alberto Perusset // 📸: Austin Hargrave

Alberto Perusset // 📸: Austin Hargrave

I moved to California from Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1988 because the United States has more opportunities. I’m also professional scuba diver and a skydiver, I’ve done that for many years and have done 230 jumps. I’m also a licensed pilot. And I did some base jumping too, jumping from buildings, but then my cousin told my mother about that back in Argentina, and that put a stop to that.

You have to listen to you body, it is very important. Your body talks to you all the time and will let you know if you are running too much or too little. You have to keep a balance. Pain is very important because your body uses pain to let you know something is wrong.

Before the pandemic, when I ran a marathon every Sunday, I would rest Monday and Tuesday and run for one hour on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and then rest again on Saturday, the day before the race. It is very important to let the body recover. People think that marathon runners run 20 miles every day but that’s not true. I’m just doing maintenance.

Alberto Perusset // 📸: Austin Hargrave

Alberto Perusset // 📸: Austin Hargrave

Diet is very important. I’ve been a vegan for 32 years. I grew up on a family ranch in Argentina and we had red meat every day for lunch and dinner. My grandfather died at 42 of a heart attack and my father died at 53, also of a heart attack. So one day I realized that if I carried on doing what they did, I would be the same. So when I arrived in the United States I became a vegan — and back then nobody knew what a vegan was.

I get my protein from quinoa, which is a complete protein, tofu and lots of nuts every day. Nature provides everything. If you want to be strong like a bull, don’t eat the bull, eat what the bull eats.

And I meditate daily. Meditation is basically to connect with yourself, your inner being, because we are constantly focused outside. But peace, and everything you are looking for, is inside of you.

Alberto Perusset // 📸: Austin Hargrave

Alberto Perusset // 📸: Austin Hargrave

The human mind by nature is very lazy, so you have to play tricks with your mind. My trick is that as soon as I finish a marathon, I start thinking of the next one. And then the mind is calm again.

You have to create routines to keep the mind quiet. But the trick is you have to make good habits, because you can also get attached to bad habits. And surround yourself with positive people, people that make you grow, and work and be happy.

But you don’t need to run marathons to be healthy and happy. If people walk half an hour every day it makes a tremendous difference. Walk barefoot if you can. We need the sun, we need the fresh air. And you don’t need to be a vegan, but make adjustments to your diet and eat well. And then you will be happier and that is the purpose of life.

And I don’t worry about the time I run. The main goal of a marathon is to finish healthy. We could apply this life too. My toughest race was three years ago on the Great Wall of China — that was my 100th barefoot marathon. It was almost 100 degrees and took more than nine hours.

Alberto Perusset // 📸: Austin Hargrave

Alberto Perusset // 📸: Austin Hargrave

Age should not be a limitation if you take care of yourself. The oldest man to run a marathon was over 100. And the oldest women was 92.

It’s all in the mindset. People who climb Mount Everest, they are just human beings like us.  But the two things they have is determination and the most important thing — and this applies to your regular life — is they trust themselves. Not trusting yourself is one of the main problems people have. When I am at the starting line of a marathon, with 26 miles in front of me, I just trust myself.

It is very important for human beings to have goals and dreams. It doesn’t matter if they’re small dreams, but little things make a big difference.

I still have many goals. I want to run marathons in every one of the 50 states, all seven continents and run the six majors — London, Berlin, Chicago, New York, Boston and Tokyo. And then I want to climb the seven summits, the tallest mountains in the world. I’m only 62, I have time.

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