Running Across America For Jesus

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 21, 2008

DEMOPOLIS &8212; Eugene &8220;Gene&8221; Starks Roberts Sr. is running across the United States, from Camp Pendleton, Calif., to Parris Island, S.C., to share his faith in Christ with others and raise money for a number of charities.

And Roberts could probably brag that he has a better grasp of life and death than most Americans. The 62-year-old runner came face-to-face with it in Vietnam, where he served as a Marine, when an explosion resulted in the loss of portions of both his legs.

That was 41 years ago. Now you could say Roberts is whole again and possibly in the best shape of his life.

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Roberts ran track in high school and said he could have made the transfer to competing on the colligate level, but he didn&8217;t feel college was the route for him. After his accident and seven months recovering in the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, Roberts didn&8217;t jump back into running, largely due to technological limitations.

Over 30 years after the loss of his legs, Roberts returned to the sport, and, in 2001, he finished the Baltimore Marathon &8212; a 26.2-mile race &8212; in eight hours and 41 seconds. Since, he has run 5ks, 10ks, two half marathons, and, in 2004, he ran 300 miles across his home state of Maryland at a rate of 10 miles-a-day.

Now Roberts is in the midst of his most ambitious project to date &8212; crossing the United States. He said he has been averaging around 16 miles a day recently &8212; running in three to four mile increments before stopping to take off his prostheses to let his legs rest and remove moisture before continuing.

Almost as homage to the hardships he has faced, Roberts decided to start his trip at the chapel at Camp Pendleton, Calif., &8212; the place from which he was shipped to Vietnam &8212; and finishes the cross-country portion of his trip at Parris Island, S.C. &8212; were he went to boot camp. From there, Roberts will cut up the Eastern seaboard to arrive back in his home state of Maryland and end his trip.

Roberts said doing so enables the couple to put all money they receive on the trip toward charities they are sponsoring for the homeless, cancer research and diabetes. He said, donations aside, he is more than willing to stop and talk to anyone interested about his journey and its ultimate sponsor &8212; Jesus.

For more information on Roberts, his charities and his progress go to