ECB Publishing, Inc.
At 95 years old, most people don't expect to be running around the nation, especially not in the sizzling summer heat of North Florida.
However, on Monday, July 1, 95-year-old Ernest E. Andrus, a World War II veteran and current adventurer, could be found running down the side of Jefferson County's Asheville Highway while accompanied by a Florida Highway Patrol trooper patrol vehicle and his running partner, John Martin.
Starting at Silver Lake Road (a little under six miles east of the Courthouse Circle and located off Ashville Highway) at 6:30 a.m., Andrus and Martin ran (or walked) their way towards Monticello before finally calling it a day after roughly four miles and a couple of hours of trekking alongside the highway.
Over 70 years ago, in Los Angeles, Calif., the then 17-year-old Andrus enlisted in the United States Navy shortly after learning of the Pearl Harbor bombing.
In the Navy, Andrus served as a hospital corpsman until he was discharged from service in 1945.
Still only in his early 20s, Andrus decided to continue his education under the GI Bill and would go on to be the manager of various drug and grocery store chains.
It wasn't until 2013, when he was 90 years old, that Andrus decided to start running across the country.
After 999 hours, 32 minutes and a single second of running, Andrus
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ran all the way from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic Coast; his journey ended on Aug. 21, 2016, only a day before his 93rd birthday.
Currently, Andrus is on his second coast-to-coast run, which began on March 16 of this year on Saint Simons Island, in Georgia.
Andurs expects that this current run will end in August of 2024, around his 100th birthday.
While Andrus runs mainly “for fun” and to keep up a sense of adventure, his journey is also part of an ongoing endeavor to raise money for a restored USS LST (Landing Ship Tank) memorial.
During World War II, 1,051 LSTs were built, but only one of the heavy-duty, amphibious vessels are left in restored and operational condition.
Landing Ship Tanks were not named, but instead identified by their hull designations, and LST-325 holds a special place in Ernest Andrus' heart, as he was a part of the crew that assisted in bringing LST-325 back to the United States from the Isle of Crete, in Greece.
Currently displayed in Indiana, LST-325 is the cause that Andrus supports throughout his runs, as each step he takes, he mile he puts past him is part of his endeavor to help raise funds in support for the historical vessel's memorial.
While Andrus is usually accompanied solely by his dedicated running partner and publicst, John Martin, the two also encourage local runners to join them for parts of their trek.
On Thursday, July 4, Ernest Andrus and John Martin ran again, this time from the July 1 stopping location at Asheville Highway and St. Margaret's Church Road to “wherever four miles places us,” says Martin.
The runners started on Asheville Highway, headed south on St. Margaret's Church Road before turning west onto Highway 90. From there, Andrus, Martin and their accompanying runners traveled four miles through Monticello before stopping for the day.
“Ernie (Ernest) loves having people accompanying him,” said Martin.
In addition to their Florida Highway Patrol trooper escort, Martin said that several out-of-town runners joined the endeavor and the running duo invited local first responders and law enforcement to accompany them as well.
“The more, the merrier!” says Martin.
Those who want to learn more about Ernest Andrus and his running progress are invited to visit the official Ernest Andrus website at coast2coastruns.com.
On his website, Andrus has links where interested viewers can follow his running progress, purchase his autobiography, Bare Feet to Running Shoes, get in contact with Andrus and Martin as well as make donations towards his cause.
At 95 years old, this World War II veteran shows no sign of stopping – and encourages those with similarly unstoppable spirits to join him on this coast-to-coast adventure.