NEW ORLEANS -- If you're heading north in the next few days, you might see 79-year-old Tom Knoll jogging along the road, all the way to Canada.
The retired Marine began a 1,650 mile journey at Jackson Square Monday morning.
"I always consider the body to be like a machine," said Knoll. "You gotta use it. If you don't it gets rusty."
The great shape of the Hawaii resident might not be a surprise considering he was one of the original competitors in the very first Ironman competition in 1978, where he finished in sixth place.
"There's only 12 of us in the world," Knoll noted.
But perhaps even greater are his accomplishments in the United States military. After joining the Marines at 17, Knoll became a master gunnery sergeant and later worked with the Defense Intelligence Agency. He served in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I'm a lucky guy," Knoll said. "I've been in four conflicts and I have my arms, I have my legs, I'm still alive obviously, and a lot of my friends didn't have that much luck."
That's one of the reasons he tries to give back. By July of last year Knoll had raised $1 million through 34 years of charity runs. He chronicles it all in his book "Why Not A Million," also for charity.
Still raising money, Knoll said this final cross-country trip is a victory lap.
"I've gone East Coast to West Coast 3,100 miles. And I've gone West Coast to East Coast 3,100 miles. I said, I'm getting to be 80 years old. I should be getting a little smarter than that," Knoll explained. "So I looked at the map and New Orleans is all the way at the bottom of the United States and International Falls is right at the top and it's only half the distance.
At a leisurely pace Knoll aims to run 33 miles a day for the next two months, taking water breaks every five miles with the help of his rotating support team. He will travel up Airline Highway to Baton Rouge, and then he's on to Natchez and Memphis.
All this, as he honors those who served beside him.
"On Memorial Day we think of the people, the friends, and everybody that we were with," Knoll said. "It's a time to remember and to be thankful."
Knoll is raising money for the Sunshine Foundation, the Wounded Warrior Project, The Jimmy V Foundation and the Rotary Club of Honolulu.