Follow the lead left by Team 99 Counties

Community: Dennis Lee and Daren Schumaker have concluded their journey

Editor’s note: Daren Schumaker of Cedar Rapids and Dennis Lee of Walford have run across all of Iowa’s 99 counties, raising money and awareness for the American Heart Association. They completed their 99th, Delaware County, on Saturday.

We are there. We have arrived.

The goal we have been focused on for so many minutes, hours, days and years is no longer “just over the next hill.” There is no next hill. There are no more hills. There are no more counties to cross. There are no more adventures to be had.

As you read these words, the reality of what we accomplished less than 24 hours ago hasn’t yet settled in. Neither of us yet truly understand. It still seems like a dream. Who would have thought we would pulled that off?

On Saturday, we crossed Delaware County — our 99th county — completing the journey of Team 99 Counties.

Our trek across Delaware County was unlike any other as we were surrounded by family and friends when we crossed the county line — when we crossed the finish line. We have so many people to thank, and we have one more lesson to learn, one more story with one more moral to tell. But that can wait until next week.

Today, we are going to talk about the future, a future without Team 99 Counties to inspire you or to motivate you. From here on out, you’re going to have to take care of yourselves, but we hope we’ve given you the tools you will need to succeed, the tools to motivate yourself.

You should know, through our experiences, to stay truly motivated you need more than just rewards and punishments, more than just “carrots” and “sticks.” If you are going to stay motivated, if you are going to remain truly inspired to perspire, you need to instill three things into your life — autonomy, mastery and purpose — from which intrinsic motivation is born. The reason Team 99 Counties was able to cross each of Iowa’s 99 counties was because our motivation to do so came from within in both of us.

Our journey granted us, for the most part, autonomy. We had control over what we did, when we did it, how we did it and who we did it with. This autonomy gave us an ownership in what we were doing, an ownership that allowed us to find what worked best for us.

You don’t have to run marathons across each of Iowa’s 99 counties to care about your physical fitness, to care about your heart health. You have the freedom to decide what type of exercise you will engage in, when you do it, how you do it and who you do it with. Use this autonomy as motivation to take steps toward a healthy lifestyle each and every day.

Team 99 Counties granted us an opportunity to develop mastery. Our adventures allowed us to develop “grit” by constantly working to get better at running and at life. To us, each county was an opportunity to “stretch” ourselves beyond our comfort zone. This desire to get better, and be better, kept plenty of gas in our tanks and our motors running.

To stay motivated, you need to challenge yourself. You need to find those “Goldilocks” types of activities, those actives that aren’t too easy and aren’t too hard but are “just right” and provide you with enough of a challenge that they can be reached with hard work and determination — or “grit.” Mastery is a process that reminds you there always is room for improvement.

We remained motivated because, through the good and the bad, we had purpose. Over the years, our purpose has become to motivate and inspire others to get up and get active. Knowing our steps and words had a greater purpose made it much easier to climb the next hill, run into the cold wind, shuffle through the snow and put pen to paper.

If we’ve done anything, we hope we have given you a purpose — to invest in yourself so you can be there for your family for years to come. To us, there is no greater purpose.

No matter where life takes you, stay motivated to take care of yourself. Stay inspired to perspire. Don’t rely on rewards for motivation. Don’t rely on punishments for motivation. Those types of motivations may yield results, but over time those results fade. To truly change your life, for the rest of your life, motivate yourself. Inspire yourself.

Greatness can be found in the most unexpected places and through unique experiences. This is a reality we have lived. We found greatness. However, we found greatness not to keep it, but to pass it on to you.


Be autonomous. Develop mastery. Have purpose. Become great. Carry our mission into the future and, more importantly, into each of your lives. It is time for us to step aside and we can do so because we know each of you will succeed.

However, when you struggle, when things become difficult, remember our journey and our words. Inspiration through perspiration. Take those words, remember Team 99 Counties and make your life great.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.