1,136 miles of road

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 2, 2006

69-year-old runner makes trek from Texas to Albert Lea via U.S. Highway 69

By Joseph Marks, staff writer

Geores Buttner-Clevenger crossed an unusual kind of finish line Friday night. At 6:09 p.m., the 69-year-old completed an almost-two-month run along all of U.S. Highway 69, beginning in Port Arthur, Texas and ending at the intersection with Main Street in Albert Lea where the road becomes U.S. Highway 13.

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The retired lab technician from Berkeley, Calif. said he felt &8220;fresh as a daisy&8221; moments after completing the 1,136 mile run.

Buttner-Clevnger wore a red shirt with a Highway 69 symbol on the front for the last leg of his journey. The 69-year-old also sported a long white beard he said he hasn’t shaved in 25 years.

Tomorrow Buttner-Clevenger said he plans to head three more miles up Highway 13 to the intersection with Interstate 90. When he does so, he said, he will have crossed most of the even numbered Highways in the nation.

Buttner-Clevenger runs a 10-minute-mile. Traveling 6.9 miles at a stretch, it took him 69 minutes to complete each leg of the journey.

Buttner-Clevenger said he couldn’t wait until June 9 to complete the journey because he turns 70

June 8.

&8220;I’ve seen people retire and they stop doing things and die,&8221; he said Thursday south of Lake Mills, Iowa. &8220;Others are busier than they were before they retired. They’re working and full of life. I’ve met a lot of people like that and I’ve borrowed some of that from them to help me on my run.&8221;

Buttner-Clevenger said he is making the run to bring attention to physical fitness and the environment.

The 69-year-old gained national attention three years ago, at the age of 66, when he ran the famous U.S. Route 66 beginning in Chicago and ending in Los Angeles.

He said the run won him a title in Ripley’s Believe It or Not as the first person to make the run entirely alone. He also got a spread in the L.A. Times and was featured on the Ellen DeGeneres Show

His only company on the trek was a bicycle named Blu and a van named Liah. Buttner-Clevenger said usually left the bike tied to a mile marker and drove 6.9 miles ahead. Then he ran back to the bike and biked back to the van. The van was his home during the journey.

Along the way, Buttner-Clevenger inspired many people with his run. When he returned to fetch his bike, tied to mile marker 211, south of Lake Mills, Iowa, Thursday afternoon, he found a bag of fresh strawberries tied to the frame with a note of support signed by &8220;the Johnson family.&8221;

When he completed the run Friday, a few people who came to watch him cross the finish line honked their horns in support.

One observer, Tim Trcka, said to Buttner-Clevenger, &8220;you know what I want to do now? I want to go running. But I don’t have the right shoes,&8221; he said pointing to his sandals.

People didn’t get too close though. Buttner-Clevenger chewed warm cloves of garlic while running, a trick he said he learned while running Highway 66 to keep ticks away.

During his 69 years, Buttner-Clevenger has studied anatomy, run a portrait studio and worked in the physics lab at the University of California in Berkeley. He said he always kept physically fit but didn’t begin running competitively until he was in his 60s.

After returning home, he said, he plans to write about his run for Ex-L’s Express, a local retirement magazine.

He has two great-grandchildren.

Read more about Buttner-Clevenger’s run in Sunday’s Albert Lea Tribune.

(Contact Joseph Marks at joseph.marks@albertleatribune.com or at 379-3435.)