For nearly five years, Sonny Molina hasn’t stopped running; entering as many marathons in the US and Philippines as he possibly can.
However, Sonny is not your average athlete. He doesn’t lift weights, does not follow intense regimens, and doesn’t even go to a gym to train for his competitions.
Every day, he gets up and runs 3-6 miles on gravel trails and concrete paths, completely barefoot.
Sonny wasn’t always this dedicated when it comes to sports or endurance running. In fact, he had never shown any interest in marathons until 2012, much less realising he enjoyed running without socks or shoes.
An orthopaedic nurse, part time fisherman and fishing lure creator - it would seem Sonny’s passions couldn’t be further from the intense activity that has earned him a record title.
Nonetheless, his ambition to participate in multiple races without any athletic background stemmed from a single challenge presented to Sonny by two of his friends to do a full marathon.
Little did he know that dare that would lead the now 44-year-old Sonny on the path to the Guinness World Records title for most barefoot half marathons run on consecutive days.
Several would cringe at the idea of jogging miles with nothing but bare skin touching concrete - but not Sonny who sprints with the soles of his feet heavily calloused, and always ready to hit the ground running.
The idea started after the runner began to experience foot pain while preparing for an upcoming marathon.
“I never thought of running barefoot until I kept having problem running with my shoes on,” said Sonny, “I would always get blisters, pains on my calves, knees and hips. In fact, my feet have a weird structure which forces me to have custom shoes made just to be able to run. So one day I was so sick and tired of these problems that I just decided to run a full marathon barefoot - without any training.”
Despite the surprising choice made by Sonny, he was relieved to find that his unorthodox decision helped to make distance running for him easier.
He first started with 5K’s to test his abilities, and after working up his stamina to sustain such distances, Sonny put his feet to the test with 42.195 kilometres of terrain.
”I love running barefoot. It doesn’t hurt at all - it is natural running,” said Sonny, “It reminds me how blessed I am that I can walk, run and enjoy life to the fullest without any restrictions.”
One of the most remarkable components of Sonny’s story is accomplishments he’s made along the way, since leaving his home nation of the Philippines.
Stepping onto US soil at the age of 21, he became an orthopaedic and podiatry registered nurse at McHenry Centegra hospital in his home of McHenry, Illinois, raising two daughters with wife Louina and even obtaining a black belt in taekwondo.
“I grew up where I was treated like I didn't know anything or I that I didn't have something to be proud of - that's the community I grew up with. My parents are the only ones that ever made me feel proud of myself. I just didn’t have the courage to show to the world that I could be somebody.
“So as a kid I’d stay home with my parents, it felt safer that way. But one day later on I realised that I could be somebody, that anyone can be somebody if they believe in themselves and prove that anything is possible. That’s how I found Guinness World Records. GWR is the instrument that helped me show the world that I am one of the best in this world.”
He always imagined that coming to the United States would lead him to a better life, but he never expected to pursue a personal mission to obtain a world record – and one that would recognise his ability to run 11 days straight of barefoot marathons.
In a way, Sonny has already left his unique footprint in the Philippines during a race in 2014, when the jagged terrain of the jungle got the best of his bare soles.
While speeding off into his first 50K in the mountainous area of the country, he encountered a severely rocky track, which happened to be flaming hot with the unforgiving temperatures typical to that side of the globe.
Knowing it would be a long and arduous journey to the finish line, Sonny cut branches off of local trees to make a walking stick, asked nearby houses for drinkable water, and even bathed in local waterfalls to keep from overheating.
Even after being offered a ride to the end of the race by staff officials, he refused, becoming the last runner of hundreds, and the only one to have finished each kilometre completely barefoot.
Many may wonder what drives Sonny to complete a race, much less 11 consecutive days of races barefoot – even under the sometimes extreme conditions found in the Philippines.
But if you asked the determined runner, each time, he’ll say his daughters.
“We lost three daughters due to a condition called Myotonic Dystrophy,” said Sonny, “I did this record and will achieve other records for them. I want to show the world how much I love them - and that I wish they were here with us. I wanted to show how far I can go to express my love for them, and how much we miss them. I wish they could have had all my energy and strength.”
It’s evident that Sonny has shown remarkable strength, both on the track and in his personal life, and he plans to continue portraying that attribute in the future.
After all this time and dedication to the sport, the multi-marathon runner’s persistence has given him an opportunity to love an activity he once hated.
“Before 2012 I didn’t like running at all,” admits Sonny, “But I’m glad that I was challenged by my friends to run a marathon - otherwise I would never know I like running after all. After that first marathon, I got addicted to it. I think what really makes me like running is the camaraderie of runners and its community. It is a different kind of world, different culture. Runners are always happy and they help each other succeed. I like those kinds of values.”
Sonny is currently planning two further marathon running record attempts, one which involve running a months’ worth of marathons, the other with him running in costume.
As with his previous record attempt, he hopes to obtain each title completely barefoot.
“I will continue to set and breaks records. I want to do this to leave a lasting legacy and memory to my family, my kids and my grandkids. I want them to be proud of me. I want them to remember me all the time when I'm gone in this world with what I have done. To teach them good virtues in life, and to appreciate the value of life,” says Sonny.
Sonny's record breaking doesn't stop there
Sonny is collecting records quicker than he collects... well, all the things he's collected to earn records!
In fact, he has a whopping 12 record titles to his name so far.
Most consecutive days to run an official marathon barefoot (male) - 11 days
Most barefoot half marathons completed in one month (male) - 20
Most ultra marathons completed in a month (male) - 4
Most barefoot half marathons run on consecutive days (male) - 20
Farthest distance walking barefoot on LEGO bricks - 8,898.9 m (29,195 ft 10.39 in)
Most half marathons completed in one month (male) - 20
Largest collection of leather postcards - 1,043
Most lanyards worn at once - 509
Largest collection of Pringles tubes - 256
Largest collection of skull drinkware - 307
Largest collection of salt and pepper sachets - 395
Farthest distance travelled by walking barefoot on LEGO bricks by a relay team in one hour - 4.021 km (13,195 ft 7.023 in) with Russell Cassevah, Kevin Stahle, James Preseau Jr. and Kirb Lim
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