Barefoot for a cause

Published 10:49 am Monday, November 28, 2011

Shelley LeTendre will be running barefoot in an effort to raise suicide awareness as well as money. -- Eric Johnson/

Austin woman to race for suicide awareness

When Shelley LeTendre runs a half-marathon barefoot in Las Vegas this December, she plans to focus more on other people’s pain than that of her feet.

LeTendre, of Austin, will run the 13 miles without shoes or socks as a way to bring awareness to suicide and the emotional pain that precedes it.

“I want to make a point that no matter how hard the road or struggle, you can make it,” LeTendre said.

Email newsletter signup

LeTendre has finished 14 full marathons in her life, but she didn’t decide to run with a specific purpose until this year when at least nine people she knew committed suicide in the span of three months. Being someone who had struggled with depression in the past, LeTendre said she was touched by the eulogy at one of her friend’s funeral. That’s when she decided she wanted to bring more awareness to preventing suicide in Austin.

“I just want more awareness,” she said. “Something in me is telling me to do this.”

Although LeTendre has been running for many years, she has never run a race barefoot. To prepare for the Dec. 4 half-marathon in Las Vegas, she has been building up the callouses on her feet. She said she’s not very worried about running barefoot, especially when it’s symbolic of the emotional pain endured by those struggling with suicidal thoughts.

LeTendre isn’t sure where the race will lead her when it’s over, but she’s hoping to raise enough money — and awareness — to start a suicide prevention non-profit group in Austin.

“My passion right now is to do something like this,” she said. “I run for my sanity. It’s taken my heart into something bigger than myself.”

To date, LeTendre has raised nearly $3,000 toward her cause, and she is already planning future events to get more of the community involved. A local run dedicated to preventing suicide will be held June 2.

Her ultimate goal is to have a place in Austin for people to go for help if they’re struggling with suicidal thoughts. She also wants to see more education about suicide and depression prevention locally.

As she waits to see how her dreams pan out, LeTendre is busy fundraising for the barefoot run on Dec. 4. She is also taking names of suicide victims or others who are struggling so she can pray for them and their families as she runs the 13 miles.

“I feel like God has put it on my heart to do something,” she said. “This is my answer to what I was looking for.”