Last Saturday, flanked by six other runners, Ernie Albus jogged down Highway 84 east of Nahunta. He is running from San Diego to St. Simons Island. He has been carrying a flag during his run, and he also happens to be ninety-two years old.
Ernie Albus isn’t running just for fun. His goal is to raise money to send LST 325, a tank landing ship, back to Normandy, France, in the year 2019. It will be the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, and the current plan is to put the LST at the same spot it occupied during the invasion. Unfortunately, there isn’t yet enough money to accomplish this. So, Ernie, himself a veteran, decided to start running.
The six runners alongside Albus weren’t the only additions. Two Brantley County sheriff’s cars escorted the group to the stopping point for that day, which was marked by a red mailbox near a Dairy Queen in the town of Nahunta. When the tired runners made it to the Dairy Queen, they received free ice creams, and they then retired to the Huddle House next door for lunch.
Undaunted and determined, Albus left the Dairy Queen before sunrise on the following Monday. One of the runners who joined him is Beverly Latvala. Originally from St. Simons, she decided to run with Albus both Saturday and Monday.
In an interview, she recounted one of her favorite moments of the run. Running past a Bayview nursing home, the saw that the employees had helped thirty wheelchair-bound residents outside so they could watch the group pass.
As he nears the final destination, local track clubs will join Albus on his trek. When they cross the finish line on August 20th, there will be a party at the former Coast Guard station in East Beach. The beach at St. Simons Island marks two milestones for Albus: not only is it the final destination of his journey, but the date that he reaches it, August 20th, is his 93rd birthday.
On Monday, a local club called Okefenokee Track and Cycling Club joined the runners, boosting the numbers up to twenty-two people at one point in Ware County. The most people the group gained, however, was when Albus crossed from Louisiana into Mississippi; according to Albus they had seventy-one people.
His fellow runners have noted that as he runs, Albus appears to have a firm path in mind from which he will not deviate, at least for the most part. On Saturday, he did pause on his route to chat with residents. Although he is resolute, the other runners do what they can to keep Ernie’s spirits high. For instance, if a runner spots a stray penny on the road, they will be sure to nab it and give it to Albus, who will add it to the jar he keeps back home.
When asked what his plans are after he reaches St. Simons, Albus, unsurprisingly, already has a task in mind. On his table back home, he plans to lay out a map of the United States, marked with his path across it. There, every day, he will be reminded what he is capable of accomplishing.