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Running the Marine Corps Marathon in Luna Sandals [Race Report]

When people see me running in my huaraches, I’m often told I’ll never be able to run a marathon in them. Finally, I can say I can because I have. On October 28, my 42nd birthday coincidentally, I completed my first marathon, the 37th Marine Corps Marat…

When people see me running in my huaraches, I’m often told I’ll never be able to run a marathon in them.

Finally, I can say I can because I have. Read on to see how things went!

On October 28, my 42nd birthday coincidentally, I completed my first marathon, the 37th Marine Corps Marathon held in Washington D.C., and I did so in my Luna Sandals. Perhaps I was the only one in sandals that morning. If there were others, I didn’t see them. I did meet someone running the race barefoot, and I learned of another who ran barefoot, as well. As for runners in other minimalist footwear, their numbers were well, minimal. I only saw a handful of Vibram FiveFingers and other brands among 30,000 runners.

Like my footwear, my preparation for this marathon was minimal. I followed no rigid training schedule and leading up to the race, I ran as I have for the past three years — daily or as my schedule permitted. This averages about five miles a day. I did run 20 miles one day back in April to prove to myself that my barefoot running technique was strong enough to keep me relaxed and comfortable for longer runs, turning my focus to hydration and nutrition instead. As the marathon unfolded, I realized I probably didn’t focus enough in this area.

My primarily goals for the race were to finish and to enjoy myself. As for time, I would be happy to finish with an overall pace near my daily running pace. Ten minute miles seemed reasonable. At the 18 mile mark, I was exactly on that pace before cramping in my legs began. My feet, knees, back, and energy level were just fine, but the muscle cramping forced me to slow way down, and for a few stretches I dropped to a walk just to see if that might help. It didn’t and neither did drinking or eating more because it was too late. I forged ahead, eventually finishing with an 11 minute pace overall. I met those primary goals, but I wish I could have staved off the muscle cramps so I could have stayed on my goal pace.

Stiffness from the muscle cramps aside, I felt great after the run. My feet felt as if I didn’t even just finish a marathon. My Luna Sandals performed wonderfully. I got the usual comments during the race about my strange footwear with many saying how brave or tough I was. I tried to tell them: they were tough to endure shoes for so many miles of pounding asphalt!

I’m glad I chose the “MCM” as my first marathon. The entire event was executed with only the precision that comes from the U.S. Marine Corps. The crowds who braved the cold and wind preceding Hurricane Sandy were full of energy and inspiration. By the way, in the MCM, you not only get to complete a marathon, you also get a running tour of Washington D.C. and its historic landmarks.

Finally, here’s a trailer I made of the race. Hope you like it!

Thanks to my wife Tonya and to my mom for cheering me to the finish!

By James

James's life was changed forever when he tried running in Vibram Five Fingers in July 2010. He'll occasionally go barefoot, but he primarily runs in his homemade huarache sandals. He loves to experiment with different types of minimalist footwear and has previously reviewed huaraches (homemade, Invisible Shoe, and Luna Sandals), the Teva Zilch, and the VIVOBAREFOOT Achilles running sandals.

12 replies on “Running the Marine Corps Marathon in Luna Sandals [Race Report]”

Haven’t run a marathon in 26 years. Just moved to VFFs and resumed walk/jog/running after a decade-long layoff. Now, at 63, I’m doing 3+ miles every day and have complete four obstacle runs and about a dozen 5Ks (at sub-one-hour times, barely). Your participation and performance in the USMC Marathon gives me inspiration to continue the long road back to competitive racing.

Sounds like an awesome experience! Ive been reading this site for about a week now and I am falling more in love with it! Eventhough I am not the biggest runner, more like a bodybuilder in training, It is great to learn more about minimalist shoes and know that alot of the people on this site are right in Atlanta

Hey I was there! My friend was running it. I didn’t see you in the sandals, but I saw several feet with VFF’s on running by and a guy running it barefoot!

@Solya: I had the ATS laces. They’ve been making steady improvements to the laces, and I believe they’ve nailed it with the ATS laces. After the race, I had the tiniest little red spot on the top of one foot where the laces rubbed my skin — nothing to complain about at all though.

You are an inspiration to the growing barefoot savages of northwest Florida! Thanks for your teachings, coaching and support as we all enjoy getting healthy and staying fit! At 50 and never running before your help, I am about to do two 10ks without worry! Thanks!

Hey! You weren’t the only one at the MCM in BFT Huaraches! I also finished the 37th Marine Corps Marathon wearing BFT Luna Classics.

I crossed the finish line with Barefoot Todd. This was his 297th marathon. (

You probably didn’t see me because i was WAAAAAY in the back of the pack, demonstrating my worst marathon performance yet (and it was not because of the sandals).

When I finished the MCM with Todd, we were definitely not running 10 minute miles. 🙁

i ran the MCM in my VFFs!!! i ran for a little while with Barefoot Todd and got to hear a fun story. it’s so interesting to see so many of us doing what people tell us is impossible.

I ran it barefoot! It took me upwards of 6 hours, but given this is my first marathon and with my very erratic training ( max of 16 miles per week) it was an achievement for me.
If I can do it, i guess anyone can 🙂


I just ran the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon in Lunas. Was debating whether or not I should wear them when I came across your blog so thanks for the inspiration! Got lots of comments but only one person correctly called them huaraches.

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