This 96-year-old is trying to become the oldest person ever to run coast-to-coast

Andrus marches across the country with supporters in tow. (CBS NEWS)

High on the list of things I never thought I’d see is this: Ernie Andrus, who turns 97 next week, still marching across America.

I first met Andrus 6 years ago.  He was in the middle of the Arizona desert, trying to become the oldest person to ever run coast to coast. Three years later, he actually made it to the Georgia shore — only to then turn around and start running back the other way.

Andrus is now a year into the return trip.  We caught up with him outside Lufkin, Texas, plodding along slow and steady, as usual — albeit slightly slower — and noticeably less steady.

A few weeks ago, a doctor diagnosed Andrus with congestive heart failure.

“Yea, that’s what they told me, but he’s selling pacemakers,” Andrus said.

“So you think that’s just all a sales pitch?” CBS News asked.

“Yeah,” Andrus responded.

There’s a chance he could be telling Ernie the truth. Does that change anything?”

“No, I’ll run ’til I drop,” Andrus said. “I always said I’ll die with my running shoes on.”

Much of Andrus’ motivation to soldier on comes from his sailor past.  During World War II, he served on a ship called an LST, and he’s been running to raise money for the LST Memorial in Evansville, Indiana.

“This shouldn’t be forgotten,” Andrus said.

But along the way, this run has also taken on a more personal purpose, as thousands have joined him for at least a leg of the journey.  They have listened to his stories, celebrated his fortitude, and given Andrus the key to a long life: a deep desire to keep moving forward.

And that’s why, although his doctor says time is short, Andrus is still planning to reach the Pacific sometime around his 101st birthday.

“Let’s say you make it to California, then you stop running?”

“No, I have a plan for a coast-to-coast relay,” Andrus responded with a laugh.

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