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Running with sole
Jerrie Barber with Grant Hitchcock.jpg
Jerrie Barber holds onto Grant Hitchcock as he shows the dirt on the bottom of his foot following last year’s Stars and Stripes Fun Run. Barber says he always runs barefoot, provided the outdoor temperature is over 50 degrees.
Jerrie Barber half marathon.jpg
Jerrie Barber is shown in 2012 finishing the Tom King Half Marathon at the home of the Tennessee Titans in Nashville. He can be seen on the jumbo-tron.

Saturday’s 40th annual Stars and Stripes Fun Run will feature a 76-year-old barefooted runner.

Jerrie Barber, the interim preacher at Central Church of Christ, will be participating in the 5K race for the second year in a row.

Barber says he’s been a runner for 52 years, but he didn’t start running barefoot until he was 65.

“It was in the fall of 2009 when I first read about barefooted running,” said Barber. “It was fun when I was 5, so why wouldn’t it be fun as an adult?”

Running barefoot in the backyard as a child is slightly different than running barefoot on city streets for a 5K race. There’s loose gravel, broken glass, and other hazards.

So what does Barber do when he steps on something that hurts?

“I have a standard procedure,” he said. “The first thing I do is say ouch. The second thing I do is check to see if it’s fatal. If it is, I’ll call my wife and kids to say goodbye. If not, I’ll keep on running.”

Barber has been the interim preacher at Central for over a year. He has two sermons left before a new preacher is scheduled to take over as permanent preacher. Barber said he views running barefoot as a good parable for life.

“People always ask, ‘Doesn’t that hurt?’ Yeah it hurts,” said Barber. “But just about anything you do is going to cause pain. If all I’m doing in life is trying to stay comfortable 24 hours a day, I’m not going to accomplish much.”

During his running career, Barber has finished three marathons, in 2004, 2005 and 2006, all with shoes. He’s run a half-marathon barefooted.

“There will be a day I can’t run a marathon,” said Barber, “but I have a lifetime of knowing that I have.”

He picked up running early in life after attending a revival and taking a vacation in back-to-back weeks. When he went to put on his dress pants, he noticed they wouldn’t button. So he started running strictly to lose weight, admitting he didn’t enjoy it.

In the winter of 1979, he said he read a book called “The Complete Book of Running,” which changed his outlook. He’s enjoyed running ever since.

“It’s my quiet time,” said Barber. “When I first started running, my wife said she would get me a Walkman so I could listen to my cassette tapes. I told her I didn’t want it. I want time to think. There are good ideas that pop into my head, good sermons that pop in my head when I’m running.”

There are also health benefits to staying active.

“I say it’s like making deposits in your physical IRA,” said Barber. “With an IRA, you put in a little money here and a little money there and over time with compounding interest it really adds up. It’s the same way with physical activity. You do a little bit here and a little bit there and it adds up over time.”