‘Run Ernie Run’: 93-year-old WWII veteran completes epic US coast-to-coast run
While most people in their 90s are slowing down, Ernie Andrus embarked on a journey that most people wouldn’t contemplate undertaking even in the prime of their life. Andrus ran over 4,000km from the US Pacific coast to the Atlantic Ocean.
Andrus’ first steps on the epic journey were made in San Diego in October 2013. Just under three years later, he made the final footfalls of his heroic adventure on St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, on Saturday.
It was a double celebration for the World War II veteran, who turned 93 on Friday. However, Andrus had a few regrets that his epic journey, which had lasted two years and 10 months, had finally come to an end.
"Oh, it’s great,” Andrus told the Brunswick News after making it to his final destination. “I’m glad to have finished and met the goal. But I wish it wasn’t over.”
Reminiscent of the Hollywood movie ‘Forrest Gump’, Andrus had followers wearing ‘Run, Ernie, Run’ T-shirts. He also managed to meet diverse and incredibly welcoming groups of people throughout his journey.
“All these people, it’s so wonderful,” he said. “This is great, this is the biggest crowd I have had, ever.” Andrus sold all his possessions, including his home in California, to help fund his run. The death of his wife was part of his inspiration for undertaking the marathon trek.
Councilman John Williams of the City of Mobile, Arizona, was one of the people who met Andrus during his journey.
“It didn’t take long after his arrival to know we had a special person in our city,” Williams told AL.com.
Unlike the Gump character, Andrus was not merely running for the sake of running. He had a good cause to support. He wanted to raise money and awareness for the LST 325, an amphibious landing vessel which helped the Allies during World War II.
Andrus was a medic on a similar ship during the war in Normandy, France, and he saw with his own eyes how vital the LST 325 was during war time.
His plan is now to help to restore a World War II ship in Indiana and return it to Normandy for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, in 2019.
“I’ll tell you what, he’s a tough old man,” John Tallent, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War, who represents the LST 325 and its educational efforts, told the Brunswick News. “Even if he doesn’t raise another dime, the attention he’s brought to WWII, and the sacrifice those men made, has just been phenomenal.”
With his epic adventure at an end, Andrus is now planning his next trip, on which he intends to drive his motorhome to Alaska.
“Now that I'm a homeless veteran,” he joked to AL.com, “I'll probably go somewhere in California and get me some property. Somewhere I can run.”