Seek perfection, settle for excellence

Tales of the road from Team 99 Counties

Dennis Lee (left) and Daren Schumaker begin their run across Howard County on July 9 in Riceville. (Kris Lee/community contributor)
Dennis Lee (left) and Daren Schumaker begin their run across Howard County on July 9 in Riceville. (Kris Lee/community contributor)

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. 93. Next: Cedar

Perfection doesn’t exist. Perfection is an illusion.

Those who seek perfection will find their quest and themselves unfulfilled.

Despite these facts, perfection should be sought after as those who hunt for perfection will no doubt catch excellence. There are no perfect people. There are no perfect opportunities. There are no perfect pathways to success. Instead, there are only your people, your opportunities and your pathways to success.

Fortunately, the people and opportunities already present in your life build the most effective pathways to success and means of achieving excellence. However, before you can attain excellence, you have to decide to create your own pathway and have faith that you will indeed find success.

On July 9, we found ourselves traveling from different locations — Cedar Rapids and Elkader — to meet in Cresco where we united and traveled westward to Riceville where our 93rd journey would begin, our journey across Howard County. We started our eastward march at 6:20 a.m. on East Main Street in the heart of Riceville and were running along Highway 9 and into a cool east wind before we completed our first mile. The shoulder was rough as we pushed onward toward Saratoga. We saw the eastern edge of Saratoga before we had even crossed its western threshold, and only seconds after entering Saratoga we had crossed Crane Creek, passed Lubbert Park, and left civilization behind us.

After crossing Crane Creek, we found ourselves running up a steady and gradual upward pull — a pull that remained steady, gradual and upward — that failed to provide us with even a few strides on a level, let alone. a downward surface. The temperate also gradually climbed toward its daytime high of 75 degrees as we pushed eastward. We passed several road signs that reminded us of just how far north we were — within nine miles of the Minnesota border were there was likely still snow on the ground. We crossed the western fork of the Turkey River, which ran through a culvert under Highway 9, and crossed Highway 63 shortly after completing our 13th mile.

Dennis was more than familiar with our surroundings since he attended and graduated from Crestwood High School in Cresco. We passed Davis Corners and Dennis told me about how he had dreamed about running into Cresco from “Nine-Mile Road” since he was in high school — a dream we fulfilled step by step during the course of — you guessed it — the next nine miles that took us well into Cresco where we completed our 22nd mile and met with a reporter from KAAL. an ABC-affiliate in Rochester, Minn.

We made our way to the Howard County Courthouse where we posed for a few photos and were each interviewed about all things Team 99 Counties. By the time we were ready to depart the Howard County Courthouse, our legs had stiffened to such an extent that our march to Crestwood High School was anything but elegant. We posed for a few more photos and found ourselves literally racing around Crestwood’s track, spending two laps bouncing along the Cadet blue surface. We zigged and zagged our way back to Highway 9 and jumped onto a paved trail that took us up and down a few hills and out into the sun. We arrived at the eastern border of Howard County and took the trail south for three-tenths of a mile before returning to complete our 93rd county — running 26.3 miles in 3 hours, 42 minutes and 2 seconds.


We have a map with each of Iowa’s 99 counties labeled by name. When we started, this map was uncolored and empty. Slowly but surely, our map became more colorful as we filled in the borders of each county we had crossed. At first, the colored portions of the map were few and far between, but now there is more color than not. Coloring in this map has not been an easy process. In fact, it has been more difficult than either one of us could have imagined, a down right tedious process.

Our journey has been far from perfect. This should be no surprise. We aren’t perfect people, we haven’t had perfect opportunities and we haven’t had perfect pathways to success. We haven’t sought perfection or waited for perfection to appear. Instead, we made a decision to hunt perfection in the hopes of finding excellence. We decided to be great, and we had faith — when we needed them — we would find the people and opportunities that would show us our pathways to success and the achievement of excellence.

Don’t try to be perfect. Don’t let the fear of failure keep you from acting on your dreams. Decide to act and have faith you will get to where you need to be when you need to be there. If you don’t act, and if you don’t take that first step, you’ll never color in your map. You’ll never achieve your dreams. You’ll never run into Cresco from “Nine-Mile Road.”

You need to stop doubting and start believing. Sometimes you need to color in your map before you even start, doing so because you know you will succeed as you’ve relied on the great people in your life and turned the challenges before you into the opportunities that have become the advantages on your pathway to success. Have faith. Give yourself something to believe in by believing in yourself.

Don’t wait. You already have your people. You already have challenges that are opportunities in disguise. Chase perfection knowing your people and your opportunities will help you find excellence on your pathway to success.

Inspiration through perspiration. Get up and get active.

• To make a donation or buy a T-shirt, email Dennis Lee at

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