COMMUNITY: Running for a cause

Team 99 Counties raising fitness awareness, money for AHA

  • Photo

By Daren Schumaker, community contributor

History has a way of impacting us.

Most people remember where they were or what they were doing during the historical events of their lifetime — Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, the assassination of JFK, or the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

Each of our personal histories also have a way of impacting us. Most of us remember where we were or what we were doing during the historical events of our personal lives — when we met that special someone, the birth of a child or the death of a loved one.

I also remember where I was and what I was doing when the seed of an idea was planted and a dream born. Just over three years ago, in December 2009, I was enjoying the company of others during a holiday party at the residence of Dennis and Kris Lee in Walford. Dennis and I had made plans to run the next day and were attempting to decide on where and how far we should run.

Bolstered by the good cheer in the air, Dennis and I discussed running 20-plus miles the following day. We then discussed running a marathon distance — 26.2 miles. Before I knew what had happened we were sitting in front of a computer and looking at a map, plotting a 26.2 miles course from just west of Belle Plaine to Walford, a course that took us from one side of Benton County to the other.

The following day Dennis and I had his wife, Kris, drive us to our starting point just west of Belle Plaine, where she left us to our own demise and a 26.2-mile run that would change our lives forever.

Today, just over three years later, the seed that was planted has grown into a dream and a mission — to run across each county in Iowa while making others aware of the importance of heart health and raising money for the American Heart Association.

Together Dennis and I became Team 99 Counties.

As the seed of our idea grew, we decided we would run across each of Iowa’s 99 counties from western border to eastern border, running at least 26.2 miles while crossing the county and, at times, running much farther.

Dennis and I agreed that if we were going to undertake such a daunting task that we should attempt to help others in doing so. We quickly agreed to run in the name of heart health and the American Heart Association. We wanted to fight heart disease as it had impacted both of our lives through the death of loved ones. We set the goal of raising $250 for each county that we planned to run across, resulting in a total of nearly $25,000.

More importantly, we also set the goal of motivating others to take a more active role in their health. We hoped others would hear of our mission and decide if we were running across an entire county, then they could get more active and exercise more frequently. We wanted to be the “inspiration” for their “perspiration.”

To date, Team 99 Counties has run across 39 counties of Iowa’s counties and logged more than a 1,000 miles in the process. In order of completion, Team 99 Counties has made an appearance in and run across  Benton, Linn, Johnson, Jones, Iowa, Buchanan, Clayton, Monroe, Chickasaw, Tama, Dallas, Butler, Dubuque, Van Buren, Grundy, Shelby, Jackson, Sioux, Muscatine, Lyon, Freemont, Allamakee, Lee, Fayette, Plymouth, Warren, Black Hawk, Story, Union, Worth, Polk, Ida, Pottawattamie, Wright, Mills, Davis, Clinton, Poweshiek,and Carroll.

We’ve run 30-plus miles to complete nine of the counties, the farthest in Clinton County where we logged 40.85 miles in 6:12:22. Our quickest run was across Chickasaw County were a west wind helped us complete our 26.2-mile route in 3:23:38.

We’ve met many who have supported us and have hopefully inspired others.

To be honest, most of what I remember is a blur of scenery, but I do remember specific moments like they happened yesterday. We have many stories to tell, stories of triumph and defeat: the freezing temperatures and a strong east wind in Muscatine County, the darkness and barking dogs in Butler County, standing on a frozen Mississippi River in Sabula in Jackson County, and the support crew of total strangers who helped us through the freezing rain in Allamakee County.

However, the most important story we have to tell is yet to come as we continue to move forward in our quest.

Inspiration through perspiration. Become active or make a donation to the American Heart Association to help fight heart disease today.

  • To make a donation or follow the team, check out Team 99 Counties on Facebook or go to

Like what you're reading?

We make it easy to stay connected:

to our email newsletters
Download our free apps

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.
Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.