Hearty Souls (And Soles) Compete In Omaha Marathon

Close to 2,000 runners participated in Sunday's 32nd annual Omaha Marathon, including at least two runners taking on the 26.2 mile course barefoot.

Everyone was there before the sun, ready to head out on the 26.2 mile course finishing up at the riverfront.

Others were there for a half-marathon or 10K run.

It's hard for most of us to imagine running any distance without shoes, but that's exactly what a pair of hearty souls/soles did.

"This will by my fourth barefoot, fifth overall,” said Julian Romero of Pasadena, California.

What's it take to run a barefoot marathon? “It takes, inch by inch, it's a cinch just like any other," said Rick Roeber from Kansas City. "This will be my 30th marathon barefoot. I ran 18 with shoes before that."

And doing this on pavement the entire distance? "Pavement the entire way, all it takes to run barefoot is less money," said Romero.

Another face in the crowd was 79-year-old Leonard Vavra, or “Crazy Leonard” as he's known. This was his 100th marathon.

He lost his leg three years ago and now participates in a racing wheelchair with the help of some volunteer runners who push him along, including WOWT’s own John Knicely.

Leonard was in good hands and he had lots of company on the course, from the riverfront, through downtown, out to Rosenblatt Stadium and back downtown again.

After two hours, Leonard was asked how he was doing? "Superior, absolutely great," he said.

And after the loop near the airport, around Carter Lake, it was back to the riverfront again for a rousing finish.

Leonard had his own cheering section at the finish line. "Our six kids," said wife Delphine Vavra.

"Must be some kind of celebrity to have this kind of welcome, but I’m not,” said Leonard. “I'm just a guy who wanted to have a good time and run, run, run."

Tony Clark of Wichita was the men’s winner in a time of 2:47:28. The women’s winner was Tonya Janzen in a winning time of 3:22:40.

WOWT meteorologist Andrea Rich ran the half-marathon and came in 14th place in the Women's Division.