Leave lasting footprints - a legacy

Tales along the road from Team 99 Counties

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Editor’s note: Daren Schumaker of Cedar Rapids and Dennis Lee of Walford are attempting to run across Iowa’s 99 counties to raise money and awareness for the American Heart Association. They’ve completed 98 counties. This begins the final countdown to No. 99, Delaware County, which the two hope to cross on April 15. This is No. 94. Next: O’Brien

Everywhere you go, you leave footprints.

You stroll through sand, you leave footprints. You step through snow, you leave footprints. You march through mud, you leave footprints. Your footprints — which serve as an indication of your presence — may last for a few days, a few hours or a few months. However, in time, your footprints will surrender to the elements — to the wind, the water and the sun — and will disappear forever.

Footprints fade.

But not all footprints can be seen and, as such, not all footprints fade.

Each day as you follow the path of your life, you leave footprints — for better or for worse — on those whom you encounter. At times, these footprints also fade like those left in sand, snow and mud. However, these unseen footprints also can last if made at the right time, in the right place and in the life of the right person. These footprints become your legacy, and legacy lasts.

On Aug. 6, 2016, we left Walford before the sun had the chance to peak above the eastern horizon and made the short trip to West Branch. Upon arrival, we drove to West Branch High School where we met a couple of friends — Randy Brecht and Tyler Sullivan — who would be joining us for the first few miles of what would be our 94th county — Cedar County. In addition to Randy and Tyler, our support crew also doubled in size as my mother, Marilyn Schumaker, accompanied Kris Lee.

At 6 a.m., with Johnson County at our backs, we eased down a hill and along West Main Street into West Branch, passing West Branch High School and taking a small detour to run by the birthplace of Herbert Hoover and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library. Soon West Main Street turned into East Main Street, and East Main Street turned into 290th Street. The light breeze and 61 degree air made the rolling hills more enjoyable, but the company provided by Randy and Tyler provided us with much more enjoyment as their excitement was contagious.

Our route was more scenic than most, and before long we had completed our fifth mile and passed through Springdale. We continued eastward and encountered many a field of corn that — with the help of the day’s wind — appeared to wave at us like long lost friends. We descended toward the Cedar River and, on the western bank, we wished Randy and Tyler well and thanked them for the more than 10 miles they had spent with us.

We continued eastward and crossed the Cedar River, passed Rochester and turned southeast onto Cemetery Road where, to our surprise, we encountered several cemeteries that served as a lasting reminder of those who had entered and passed from this world in the late 1860s and early 1870s. After exploring for a few minutes and discovering tombstone after tombstone hidden in the tall grass, we headed south on Highway 38 and soon thereafter headed east on 300th Street.

Just before we crossed Crooked Creek, our route turned from gravel to dirt and mud, and we skated and slid for a mile-and-a-half to Old Muscatine Road, leaving many a footprint. We turned south onto Old Muscatine Road, and just north of Interstate 80, we met several friends — seven members of the Durant High School cross country team and their coach, Kay Hein, and a high school classmate of mine, Mary Dorris, and her nine-year-old daughter, Eve.

We crossed Interstate 80 and continued east on Old Muscatine Road, which turned into 325th Street, in what became a blur as cross country runners jumped in and out of support vehicles, joining us for a few miles at a time. We talked about running. We talked about life. We ran. We lived. By the time we turned south on Yankee Avenue and headed into Durant, about 10 miles later, many of the cross country runners had admittedly run farther than they had ever run before.

We visited Durant High School, my alma mater, and literally raced around the track before spending a few minutes talking to our guests about our mission — inspiration through perspiration. Joined by Mary and Eve, we wove our way south to Fifth Street and headed east, making the final push. As we reached Lioness Park, something quite unique happened. Suddenly my father, who was there to witness our finish, jumped up and ran to the finish with us. In fact, my mother jumped up. too, crossing the county line with Mary and Eve.

We finished our 94th, spending 3:56:24 to cross 27.6 miles that contained some of the most beautiful things there are to see. I remember a lot about Cedar County, but the most beautiful things were not places. They were people. I remember the smiles from Randy and Tyler. I remember the time we spent alone along Cemetery Road. I remember the enthusiasm and determination of each cross country runner. I remember the laughs and eye-rolls provided by Mary and Eve. I remember finishing literally within sight of the farm where I was raised and my father and mother running to the finish.

What will you leave behind? What you do is your history. What you set in motion is your legacy. Years from now the sad truth is that not many people will remember the running journey of Team 99 Counties. However, years from now many may remember the message of Team 99 Counties. We will be known forever by the tracks we leave. Not the tracks we leave along dirt roads like the one just west of Old Muscatine Road, but by the tracks — or footprints — that we leave in the lives of those whom we encounter.

Legacy is not leaving something for people, it’s leaving something in people. We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will. For me, this really hit home when Mary told me about how Eve would literally remember this day — and our message — for the rest of her life. That is legacy. It lasts.

In the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy. Wherever you go, leave footprints in the lives of those you meet along the way. When you see a part of someone else in you, that’s their legacy. When you see a part of yourself in someone else, that’s your legacy — and their legacy, too.

If you want to live forever, create something that will touch the lives of those around you. Be the stone that causes ripples in a pond. Team 99 Counties won’t last forever. Each of our footprints — and believe me, there have literally been millions — will soon be gone, but the footprints we have made in the lives of others will last as our legacy.

Inspiration through perspiration. Be an example. Run. Live. Leave a lasting legacy.

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