“It was for the adventure. That’s the reason I do most everything, that’s the reason I do this run.”-Ernie Andrus

 

At 90-years-old, Ernie Andrus decided to run across the country. He started touching the Pacific Ocean near San Diego, CA and made his way to St. Simmons Island, GA and the Atlantic. The total distance was 2,236.8 miles. It took him 999 hours, 32 minutes and 1 second over three years. To most people, this sounded crazy. To Ernie, it was just another adventure. Just like joining the Navy, bringing back the LST 325 as a pirate ship and running his fifth Ragnar Relay at Reebok Ragnar Del Sol.

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“My mother says I got on my feet at 8 months and I didn’t walk, I ran,” Ernie says. “I just ran everywhere. I married my second wife and she talked me into slowing down. Which was a mistake because for several years I didn’t run. I had to get back to running. Once I got back to running, I determined I was never going to get out of shape again. And I’ve just ran ever since.”

After running Ragnar, Ernie decided it was time to check another item off his bucket list.

“I did my first Ragnar when I was 88 years old and I got so much attention,” he says. “I figured if I got this much attention as an 88-year-old man running in a relay, how about a 90-year-old running coast to coast. So, I thought maybe I could raise some money for the ship.”

During World War II, Ernie served on the LST 124. The LST (Landing Ship Tank) was a ship designed to be able to land on shore and quickly unload armored vehicles and personnel. There were 1,051 LST class ships built during the war, making it the second-largest shipbuilding initiative in the history of Mankind.
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“We’re proud of our LSTs and so were the people that built them,” says Ernie. “There were a lot of people that worked on building 1,051 of them. It’s important that the LST isn’t forgotten.”

ernie-navyBut, after the war, many of the ships were taken apart. Ernie joined the National LST Association. The Association’s goal is to teach others about the role the LST had in the war. For 10 years, they searched for a boat they could bring back to the U.S. Finally, they found one in Greece. In 2000, at the age of 77, Ernie and several other veterans went to Greece to bring it back.

“A bunch of us went over there and spent about four months making it seaworthy and brought it back by its own power,” says Ernie. “They said it couldn’t be done. They said it was impossible and that you couldn’t take an old ship like that across the Atlantic. The Coast Guard in Greece said you’re all going to die out there. It would take at least 44 young strong men. We did it with 28 old men. The Coast Guard advised us not to, but they had no authority over us. And the state department refused to let us go, so we sailed as a pirate ship. We left as crazy old men, but when we got to Mobile, Alabama, we were heroes.”

By running across the country, Ernie raised funds to help keep the ship in working order. The ship now spends most of its time docked in Evansville, Indiana but will visit other ports around the U.S.

“It really gets your heart good when you see guys come on board who haven’t seen it since the war,” Ernie says.

So, he ran for the ship. He ran 2,236.8 miles. And, once he finished it was on to the next adventure: his 5th Ragnar.

“Ragnars are the most fun,” he says. “It’s like a party. Everyone’s just enjoying themselves. It’s the atmosphere and the challenge.”

He still runs three days a week. And he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

“I’m going to keep running as long as I can,” he says.

So, just like he signed up for the Navy, sailed across Atlantic, joined a Ragnar Relay team and ran across the country he’ll embark on yet another adventure: running another Ragnar Del Sol.

13 Comments

  • We loved having you run through Waycross, GA to St. Simmons. You are an inspiration! Your stories of life and history touched us all! Keep those feet moving!

  • Ernie is one of the most amazing folks I have ever met! His life stories, his ability to connect to people, and the sense of adventure are all what makes him larger than life. He certainly has brought many folks together through his Coast to Coast runs. Ernie is a hero to many.❤️️

  • I have always wanted to run A Ragnar relay! I don’t have 12 crazy enough friends. I want to run one with you.

  • You go Ernie! I’ve been honored to run with you in the Del Sol relay and again in your cross country adventure. You are an inspiration to everyone, young and old.

  • We love you Ernie. Glad we had the privilege of running your first Ragnar with you. Have fun this weekend.

  • I would have liked to help bring LST 325 back from Greece for restoration but I was still working and couldn’t afford to take all that time off. That would have been great though. Kudos to those old salts!
    Long live the Gator Sailors!
    Tim Karwoski, BT3
    USS TERRELL COUNTY LST 1157
    1969-Decommissioning
    Yokosuka, Japan

  • Awesome Ernie! You are an inspiration to all of us runners to never give up. I hope to be exactly like you and keep running forever!

  • I was fortunate and honored to join you when you entered Brantley County, GA. You are an inspiration to everyone. My papa, who also served in WWII and is 95, he is going strong today. He has always said being active has kept him going.

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