This "mailman" delivered Saturday when he ran about 45 miles from Palm Beach County to Miami-Dade on his bare feet.
Marc Drautz is not a U.S. Postal Service employee. But the avid runner and Boca Raton Elementary School teacher became fascinated with the lore of the "Barefoot Mailman"-- actually eight of them over the years -- who walked along the seashore from Palm Beach to Miami to deliver correspondence in the late 1800s.
A self-proclaimed ultra-marathoner, Drautz opted to run instead of walk and chose cycling shorts and a T-shirt with a "Barefoot Mailman" graphic emblazoned on it instead of a postal carrier's uniform and mailbag.
On Saturday, Drautz, also a former Lake Worth mayor, began his trek at the Boynton Inlet and ran south along the coast to Baker's Haulover Inlet where he finished his journey eight and a half hours later.
"We're going to try to recreate it exactly as it was," he said before he began, "To see exactly what it felt like."
For the original barefoot mailmen, each leg of the trip took three days.
Still, it was a speedier service than the three to six months it took for a letter to make its way from Palm Beach to Miami prior to the official route being established, said local historian Hib Casselberry, of the Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society.
"There was no I-95, no turnpike, not even a trail. ... [The mail] used to go north to Titusville, where the southern end of the railroad was. It would go all the way up to New York and take a steamer or schooner down to Havana, Cuba," he said, adding that mail would then be routed to Miami via Key West.
There was such a demand for better means of communication that the post office set up what became known as the Barefoot Mailman route, Casselberry said.
Although the modern-day "mailman" ran on a shoreline dotted by high-rise condo buildings, piers and developed waterfronts that are often overrun by tourists and locals, the overcast and cool day kept most beachgoers away.
During brief moments, Drautz found himself on stretches of beach that were perhaps as desolate as they may have been 128 years ago when barefoot carriers took to the shores.
At inlets where the Barefoot Mailman used rowboats, Drautz crossed using a paddleboard or an ocean kayak. He hugged the water's edge and slipped on running sleeves to keep warm; he replenished his energy with Almond Joy candy bars and Gatorade.
By mid-morning, when he crossed the Boca Inlet on a stand-up paddleboard, Drautz was greeted by his wife, three of his four children, father-in-law and friends who helped him record his journey for a YouTube video he planned to show his students as part of a history lesson.
After crossing that inlet, Drautz came ashore at the South County Regional Park in Boca Raton, not far from the lifeguard stand where he works on weekends.
As he traversed the sea-and-shore route, his experience as a lifeguard offered reassurance to his wife, Ingrid Drautz, because he "knows the current," she said.
Farther south, as he approached the Hillsboro Inlet, the iconic lighthouse served as a motivating beacon, Drautz said. There, he paused at the statue of "Barefoot Mailman" Ed Hamilton to pay homage to the postal carrier who died while on the route. Hamilton is believed to have perished at the mouth of that historically dangerous inlet.
There are other speculations surrounding Hamilton's mysterious 1887 death-- including a theory that he disappeared into the jaws of a gator, Casselberry said.
But Drautz kayaked across a fairly calm Hillsboro Inlet Saturday and was met by a nearly flat ocean. "But he has no mail?" an amused spectator on the south end of the inlet asked as Drautz approached.
Still, the "mailman's" route wasn't free of challenges.
Drautz said he spotted a nurse shark near Delray Beach and stepped on a piece of rebar that might have been part of an old pier in Boynton Beach. The high tide in Deerfield Beach also gave way to soft sand that was tough to run on -- he swam a section there, he said.
The "Barefoot Mailman" reenactment is often a popular one for Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops who, like Drautz, aim to honor the historic men who walked the first U.S. postal route between Palm Beach and Miami. Lake Worth City Manager Michael Bornstein is also known to have walked part of the "Barefoot Mailman's" route over the years.
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