Outfitted in his signature red athletic attire, 69-year-old Geores Buttner-Clevenger easily runs back to his parked Volkswagen Vanagon in Mt. Selman. Buttner-Clevenger said he uses his bicycle, Blu, as an odometer — riding it north, parking it in bushes, then making his way back down the highway and to his van by foot.

Buttner-Clevenger has a goal to run the entire length of U.S. 69. He will continue through Texas until April 6 then cross over to Oklahoma.

His journey began March 13 in Port Arthur, and he has already run more than 191 miles.

“Running is a unique activity,” he said “It’s ignored as a sport. The running community itself is self-supporting. There’s a very social group within itself.”

Buttner-Clevenger runs 13.8 miles each day — 6.9 in the morning and 6.9 again in the late afternoon.

The Berkeley, Calif. native is no stranger to running long distances. Buttner-Clevenger has been an avid runner since his days as a tennis player in high school and in 2003 ran more than 2,448 miles while following Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica.

Buttner said the Route 66 run happened by accident. When someone asked his age while he trained, Buttner replied, “I’m doing 66.” The person thought he meant Route 66, and he felt it was a good idea and ran with it — literally.

The runner follows a strict schedule to make sure he is on the right target.

“I ran six miles twice a day,” Buttner-Clevenger said. “I ran at six in the morning and at six in the evenings.” Buttner-Clevenger kept with the Route 66 theme by finishing the run in six months and six days at six minutes after 6 p.m.

Throughout his country-wide treks, Buttner-Clevenger said the only problems he has encountered are warding off dogs in the Missouri Ozarks and nursing ticks bites.

“It’s a dangerous occupation,” he said. “By necessity, I have a flock of angels looking out for me. Otherwise, I’d be dead.”

Buttner-Clevenger said he runs in any climate, and rain does not dampen his efforts.

“It’s no big deal — you’re going to get wet anyway,” he said. “The only time I stopped a run is in Illinois in a hail storm.”

Though his wife of 26 years worries while he is on the road, he said that she is one of his supporters.

“I have a Highway 69 group that’s interested in my progress,” he said. “I make dispatches, and they respond to me by e-mail. That's how I communicate.”

When he is not running, Buttner-Clevenger records his daily runs in his log book and prepares for the next one. He carries with him a laptop computer, a few clothes and some cassette tapes. He said he doesn’t have much time to listen to music, because once he lies down, he is fast asleep.

Buttner-Clevenger said he gets a lot of ‘whys’ when he passes through each town.

“The reason I’m doing this is a result of the 66 run,” he said. “I’m inspiring older people to keep fit. It’s a challenge for me to see if I can do it. It’s an excuse to remain fit. It motivates me to take care of myself.”

The apparently fit senior said he eats a lot of dried foods, nuts, pretzels and makes his own sun tea from the roof of his van. But he doesn’t get regular checkups because he is afraid a doctor may discourage him from running.

“I’m scared they may tell me to go home,” he said.

When he finishes the U.S. 69 run, he won’t be idle very long.

“Hopefully, I won’t need a long rest,” he said. “Soon I’ll be turning 70. I’ll be thinking about running the marathon in Park City (Utah). I already run over half a marathon everyday.”

His feat has caught the attention of people from all over the country, including fans in East Texas.

Buttner-Clevenger said while at a Rusk Dairy Queen, workers were excited to get his autograph.

“One of my proud achievements is I believe I’ve broken down some barriers,” he said. “That is indicated by people wanting my autograph, and I’m just a runner. It’s been a really neat experience, more so than Route 66. The people seem to be more enthusiastic about this project. I enjoy the recognition on the highway with a wave and a honk, as long as it’s not a one finger wave,” he laughs. “I want to thank East Texas for their generosity and hospitality.”

In the end, Buttner-Clevenger’s unusual expedition has been one of perseverance and drive.

“People told me I was an inspiration to them,” he said. “That was a good feeling.”

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