Amputee runner nears halfway point in trek

Randallstown man aims to cross state in 30 days

July 10, 2004|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,SUN STAFF

Two weeks into his planned 30-day, 300-mile run across Maryland, Eugene Roberts sounds cheerful and confident. If all goes well, the Randallstown man expects to hit the halfway mark late today just outside Marriottsville.

It's an accomplishment that's even tougher than it might sound: The 58-year-old Roberts, a double amputee, is running on prosthetic legs.

"It's been hard, but good," Roberts said yesterday, speaking by telephone during a pause on Route 40 near Ellicott City. "It's been really great, and people have been really great, encouraging me and everything. The human spirit is wonderful."

He added: "Even though it's hard, it's been worth every step of it."

Roberts, a veteran whose legs were amputated after they were shattered by a mine explosion in Vietnam in the 1960s, started his run in Ocean City on June 26. He is on schedule to finish in Western Maryland a little more than two weeks from now.

"I've been running for five years now," he said. "Every time I've run, when I've finished, it's been a victory and a sense of completion and accomplishment every time."

He described his run, much of which has been on U.S. 50, as "beautiful" - aside from the traffic that shares the road.

"The corn fields and just God's creation, the trees and everything - wonderful," he said.

Roberts runs five miles each morning and evening. He usually starts at 7 a.m. and runs for a little more than an hour. Then he starts again about 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. and runs for another hour or so.

He said he hasn't had any major problems.

"I hate to stop" at all, he said. "But it's been so hot and humid, about the four-mile point I have to stop because my left stump starts bothering me ... with the perspiration and everything."

He stops for a couple minutes, removes his prosthesis and changes the wool "socks" he wears over his stumps, he said. Then he's back up and running.

"People have been wonderful, man," he said. "They've been clapping and just hollering. And some people even gave money. ... All the money we get goes right for the poor and needy."

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