Barefoot jogger starts epic Transamerican run

Story highlights

  • Joseph Michael Liu Kai-Tsu Roqueni to run barefoot from Canada to Argentina
  • The "Chexican" left Montreal on Tuesday and will run south through 14 countries
  • Kai-Tsu is running barefoot because it "is something no one has done"
  • Joseph's feet will cover 19,000 kilometers of roads, greater than Earth's diameter

His name hints of an unconventional origin and his next journey reveals his desire in doing things "differently":

So differently that Joseph Michael Liu Kai-Tsu Roqueni, 32, plans to run barefoot from Canada to Argentina in 18 months.

The "Chexican" -- as he describes himself because of his Chinese, Mexican and Canadian roots -- departed Montreal on July 2 and will cross 14 countries all the way down to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, known as the southernmost city in the world.

Kai-Tsu's strategy is to run about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) or two-and-a-half hours -- whichever comes first -- twice a day.

He will run barefoot because "no one has else done it," it's cheaper and he won't have to carry lots of pairs of running shoes with him.

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Overall, Joseph's feet will cover 19,000 kilometers (about 11,806 miles) of roads, a distance nearly 7,000 kilometers (4,349 miles) greater than the Earth's diameter.

Kai-Tsu's also plans to raise funds for an organization to promote education of each country that he runs across. For now, he has picked an organization in Canada and Mexico.

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His inspiration: Ernesto "Che" Guevara's motorcycle journey across South America and the case of a Uruguayan rugby team stranded in the mountains for over two months after their plane crashed in the Chilean Andes.

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But his "true guru" is the Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner, who has climbed all 14 "eight-thousanders" peaks (mountains over 8,000 meters or 26,000 feet above sea level) without oxygen.

"I thought my friends didn't believe me"

Kai-Tsu has just graduated from Concordia University in Montreal where he obtained an Industrial Engineering degree.

He was part of the university's cross-country running club. However, not even his running teammates, he says, believed he was going to start the adventure.

"They tell me I'm crazy and I thought my friends didn't believe me," he told CNNMé days before starting his adventure.

His family supports him, though his dad remains "concerned," even though Kai-Tsu has done his best to reassure him.

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Kai-Tsu compares the skeptics of his journey to those who doubted Christopher Columbus' plan to sail across the Atlantic.

"It is like telling Columbus: 'You are crazy, the Earth is flat and your boat will drop off' -- he would never have sailed and discovered that the Earth is round."

Why did he "hang up the sneakers?"

Kai-Tsu has been training for over a year.

To prepare himself -- "because the mechanics are different," -- he says, he has run barefoot on almost all the surfaces he will find along the road and during all his training sessions, he wore the backpack he will carry with him through the journey.

Before he started training, he read about the Tarahumara tribe, the history of human exploration and the minimalistic running trend, that according to Mexican marathon runner German Silva, could be "a response in our society where there's so much of everything."

Kai-Tsu's barefoot training has been gradual and so far, the longest distance he has run is 20 kilometers (a little over 12 miles,), with four of those (2.48 miles) in the snow.

According to Silva, the most harmful surfaces for the human feet are pavement or running tracks, and for this reason Kai-Tsu will try to avoid paved roads.

He is carrying only four pairs of sandals whose soles are designed specially for running and he plans to wear them when his feet become sensitive.

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Kai-Tsu hasn't followed a specific diet since he will eat "what I can find" along the way.

He will try to consume chia seeds, a food source that "contains 21% protein, a level markedly greater than other nutritional grains such as wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, and amaranth," according to the European Food Safety Authority.

His sponsors will also provide him with granola bars and vegetable supplements.

"No one will follow me."

He picked this journey because he wants to be different from other adventurers such as Jesper Olsen, who has also run around the world. The difference: he has worn his running shoes and a support team escorted him along his treks.

Unlike Olsen, "no one will follow me," Kai-Tsu said.

His route has been based on the seasons so he doesn't run during winter.

He knows where he will be every day, so in December he plans to be in Central America, but he refrains from giving more dates and places because he doesn't know what could happen along the way.

He is aware of the risks, from robberies to encounters with wild animals.

He is only carrying a first aid kit and an emergency button to be rescued by helicopter if needed, and although Kai-Tsu tries not to think about it, he says that if something does happen to him, he will go back to Canada to be treated and then he'll resume his journey.

"I will not give up easily," he insisted.

You can follow Kai-Tsu's journey on his website: