Team 99 Counties ready for final steps

Ogden column: Dennis Lee and Daren Shumaker want you to join them

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Six-and-a-half years ago Team 99 Counties was born.

Dennis Lee and Daren Schumaker decided they wanted to do something to raise money and awareness for the American Heart Association while, at the same time, inspiring others to live a healthy life.

Team 99 Counties was born and took its first steps in December 2009.

By early Saturday afternoon, the journey will be over.

“It’s bittersweet,” Lee said. “It seems, in a way, it’s been a long time coming ... (but) we never did think about the end until we hit the 60s. We never considered the end. We never dwelled on it much because we didn’t want to think about the end.”

They are thinking about it now.

Schumaker and Lee — and more than a few friends, family and maybe even some strangers — will cross Delaware County on Saturday, starting in Masonville, running through Manchester and Earlville before ending on the western edge of Dyersville. The journey begins at 9 a.m. and will end sometime between 1:30 and 2 p.m. They want as many people as possible to join them — for the entire run, for just part of it or for the final 99 steps.

“It’s going to be the end of one chapter and the start of the next.” Schumaker said.

Lee expects it to be an emotional run.

“When you reach that goal, it can hardly not be,” he said.

Lee blames himself for the six-and-a-half year saga. The two had hoped to wrap it up much quicker. They started by doing three counties in a week.

“We we asking ourselves ‘what do we have to do to get injured,’” said Lee, who turned 51 Tuesday. “What you have to do is get older.”

Injuries seeped in and the pace slowed, but Schumaker wouldn’t let his friend take all the blame.

“There were times I would kick and scream and say ‘I don’t want to run,’” he said.

The pace picked up the last two years — some runs were in bitter cold, snow and rain — and now the end is in sight.

“We’re going for the lifetime achievement award,” Schumaker said with a laugh.

Schumaker has chronicled many tales for The Gazette over the past few years. If you haven’t read them, you should. The tales are equal part travel log, philosophical musing and motivational yarn. He draws inspiration from the sights and sounds along the roads the two traveled and conversations during their trips.

More from Team 99 Counties:

 Bridge gaps in your fitness and your life

• Expect the unexpected and enjoy it

• What was once far is now near

“We talk about big-picture kind of things when we run,” he said.

While Schumaker is the writer, Lee is the “router.” He mapped out each county, making sure the two ran at least 26.2 miles. That doesn’t mean, however, things always went smoothly. While crossing Monona County, the two got lost.

“We zigged when we should have zagged,” Schumaker said.

They ended up running 45 miles that day.

The two have many favorite counties, running past their high schools or the house where they grew up. They also had their least favorites, but that mostly was because of weather, not the counties or towns they passed through. They saw historical sites, beautiful scenery and climbed more than a few hills along the way.

And now it’s almost over.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do now that we’re done,” Schumaker said. “It’s going to be difficult.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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