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Tyler Sullivan of North Liberty is on a personal mission to run in every town in Iowa.
He’s been working toward that goal for the past six years, and two weeks ago he was able to scratch all the towns in Ringgold County off his list. Mount Ayr was his final stop in the county and he ran in the 5K Highlander Hustle during Ayr Days.
He has now run in 971 Iowa towns and cities and in 92 of Iowa’s 99 counties. He figures there are about 1,160 Iowa towns that show up on the state map.
While running in each town he tries to seek out what is unique and historical in that community. He runs at least a mile in each community, usually more in larger communities.
“Each place in Iowa has something special to see,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan said the idea for this quest began in 2015 as he was driving from Iowa City to Mason City each weekend to visit his girlfriend. He said he would drive through counties and towns he had never heard of. While the two eventually went their separate ways, he continued to think about all of Iowa’s counties.
A friend suggested he start running in all of the counties and find what is special or unique about each one. He took that suggestion and the rest is history.
So what does he look for?
“The first thing I look for is the town view, main street, mostly their welcome sign is the first thing that catches my attention,” he said. “Then I look for historical markers or museums.”
What caught his eye in Ringgold County?
“In Beaconsfield, the first HyVee, I see they are trying to get funds to get it up running again into some kind of museum. That will be pretty exciting to see when it’s finished.”
At Sun Valley Lake he ran just a half mile and back to make a mile.
“One day I’d love to run around it, and was tempted to go for a swim on a hot day like it was.”
In Ellston he mentioned he would someday like to visit Pioneer Museum when it is open.
In Kellerton, he said his got to run with multiple dogs which tagged along with him. He said he was fascinated by the Prairie Chicken viewing that goes on there.
In Redding it was the old gas station that caught his attention and in Maloy is was the former Catholic church.
He also mentioned the church in Delphos and in Benton the old school sign and the steps up to the sign.
“In Tingley I loved their veteran’s memorial, and spotted a slide with a big M on it,” he said. “It reminded me McDonalds.”
In Diagonal he ran in the morning while school was just starting.
“The students kind of stared, wondering who this guy was,” he joked.” The Freedom Rock there was wonderful.”
During Ayr Days in Mount Ayr, he signed up for the 5K.
“It was a very humid morning, but such a great atmosphere.” he said. “I felt like I should have been wearing a kilt with the Scottish theme. The race was very well put on. Volunteers on every corner and I got a great view of the town.”
He visited the post office to see the Orr Fisher mural. He also visited the old Skelly Station and took in the parade and Ayr Days activities.
Sullivan, who works for the University of Iowa, is also a poet. He has been writing poetry about his visits to the counties.
“When the poems are all finished, I am hopefully come out with a book on each part of Iowa,” he said.
Sullivan said he learns a lot about Iowa and the people who live here.
“Iowa is very beautiful. I love the many small town museums. Towns cherish their heritage. Hopefully the younger generation will appreciate that history because that is our past.”
Sullivan documents his running on his Facebook page “Iowa’s Scenic Views by Foot” and has over 7,000 followers so far.
As he wrote on a Facbook post, “Every county has their own color, own uniqueness, but when we come together, we make the state whole.”
Sullivan is not sure when he will finish running in every Iowa community.
“When I’m done, I’m done. Maybe then I’ll start on our state parks.”