The marathon runner appears in the hallway, his feet moving fast in wheelchair-propelling tennis shoes.

It’s a snowy Monday morning, the eve of his big day, and Clarence Osborn is wearing a T-shirt with his photo on the front.

He's younger in the picture -- only 98! -- and his face is rounder.

Clarence is stuck in this chair with a healing hip, fractured in November. He ran his last Lincoln half-marathon in 2008.

They made a category just for him: 90 and above.

He won with a time of 4:08:15 and has the medal to prove it.

“Clarence loved his medals,” said Nancy Sutton, director of the Lincoln Marathon. “For Clarence to do what he did at such an advanced age, he inspired a lot of people.”

Let's talk about inspiring.

The marathon man took up running after he retired from Cushman Motors, where he built and repaired scooters. (And motored his own around town for decades.)

He’s run 30 marathons in all since he turned 65.

He ran up Pikes Peak and down again. He ran in 10Ks and 5Ks and half-marathons. The Bolder Boulder. The Buffalo Run. The Twin Cities Marathon.

He carried the torch at the Cornhusker State Games.

He ran while his sweetie, Betty, rode her bicycle. The two of them traveled the country in a 1969 Chevy van, racing and sightseeing and living.

When he couldn't run anymore, he rode his three-wheeled bike through his West A neighborhood, picking up cans and making friends of strangers.

Clarence can't hear too well any more and right now he can't walk.

But he has Betty his bride of 69 years, who he met in Bristol, England, during the war. He has his son John in Colorado and his daughter Viola close by in Milford and their spouses and five grandkids and 11 greats.

And everyone who could make it came to his early birthday party here at Tabitha Sunday.

“He’s pretty amazing,” John says. “He’s a funny guy. He’s a hard worker.”

John pulls up a video on his phone, his dad in running shorts making his way around Lincoln with a TV crew.

The runner is telling his story, how he got hooked on staying fit, how as long as he had two good knees he planned to keep going, how he liked to win. (He says that twice, just so we’re clear.)

But there’s more to Clarence than his quest for fitness.

There’s Clarence the farm boy -- the fifth of 10 children -- born in a covered wagon on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota as his parents made their way from Nebraska to Wyoming to homestead.

Clarence the hired hand, milking dairy cows and husking corn in Minnesota.

Clarence the soldier, saving an officer, hit by shrapnel, cheered in the streets of France when the war finally ended.

Clarence the father and grandfather and husband. A man who smiles and cries on the eve of his 100th birthday, telling me his story at Tabitha’s Good House, where he and Betty have lived for more than two years -- a bird feeder outside their window, a magnifying computer screen so he can read the paper cover to cover every day.

Today, the room is covered in birthday greetings and banners, old photos and the quilt Betty made from her husband's many running shirts.

I hold a book in my lap, Clarence’s life story told in his words and a lifetime of photos. Clarence with his country school classmates after his family returned to Staplehurst from Wyoming. Clarence in the cavalry aboard his horse Pooky.

Clarence wearing silk shorts during his Army boxing career. Clarence and his medals: Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart.

“I’m very proud of those Army medals,” he says.

Clarence and Betty and their babies. "Our first children were born Feb. 9, 1952,” he wrote. “They were twin girls. We named them Viola and Vicki. Vicki did not survive …”

Clarence hunting with his brother Roy, posed beside a row of raccoon pelts. Clarence and Betty beaming next to a shiny Cushman motor scooter. “I rode it every day, even in winter.”

The happy couple beside the turquoise van that took them on adventures during their retirement. “My mom could out-walk anyone,” John says. “They just never stopped moving.”

Clarence in a hospital gown in a scene from the movie “Terms of Endearment.” (Blink and you’ll miss him.)

Clarence on the cover of the Cornhusker State Games program. Clarence and Bob Hope on the stage of the Senior Olympics in St. Louis in 1987.

Clarence at 72, modeling for art classes at UNL, muscles rippling.

And Clarence in real time, listening as I shout questions his direction, both of us tilting our heads, occasionally puzzled by the other.

He tells me war stories, his face filling with emotion. “The officer wrote me a note, ‘Clarence, if it wasn’t for you, I would have been left there to die.’”

He points to his right ear. “Where I got hit by shrapnel.”

He tells me about his younger brother who didn’t make it home. “His name was Glenn.”

He talks about his first road race. “I ran my first marathon and, by golly, I finished it. And I was hooked.”

He ponders the secret to a long life. “Well, I had plenty of exercise.”

Clarence could talk all day, but four great-grandchildren are waiting with a beach ball to play catch with a marathon man role model about to turn 100.

His son propels the wheelchair into the visitors’ room, full of people who love Clarence.

“He said as long as he makes it until tomorrow he’s happy,” John says. “But we want to keep him for many, many years.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7218 or clangekubick@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @TheRealCLK.

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Columnist

Cindy Lange-Kubick joined the Lincoln Journal Star in 1994 and has loved covering life in her hometown ever since. Will write for chocolate. Or coffee.

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