Iowa City man trying to run in all 99 counties

Matt Hellige, left, and Tyler Sullivan, right, do some stride workouts as part of their Friday run through Fort Madison. Sullivan has set a goal to run through every county, town and incorporated township in the state. Courtesy photo.


FORT MADISON – A 32-year-old Iowa City man is using his spare time to literally run in every county in the state.

On Friday, Tyler Sullivan, an employee with the University of Iowa stopped in Fort Madison and Keokuk to run with Holy Trinity Catholic senior Matt Hellige.

The two ran about six miles through Fort Madison Friday, stopping at historical places such as the Sheaffer Pen Museum and the Old Fort. Then added another eight miles on Saturday in Keokuk.

Sullivan said he was impressed with Fort Madison’s downtown and the work that was going on to rehab the Hwy. 61 business route.

“I normally run from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with a focus mostly on seeing museums, special attractions and visiting with people,” Sullivan said.

Runner Tyler Sullivan took this photo inside the Old Fort on his run through Fort Madison on Friday. Sullivan is trying to run through all 99 state counties, 1,280 towns, and incorporated towns in the state. Image courtesy of Tyler Sullivan.

The challenge came to him three years ago when a friend encouraged him to think about running in every county. Sullivan said he’s expanded to not just running in every county, but every town and incorporated township.

“I’m at currently at 84 counties,” he said. “I was hoping to do five more this year. But now I’m really focusing more on towns. Officially there are 947 towns and if I included the incorporated areas that totals about 1,280.”

The bigger the town, the more miles he runs, Sullivan said.

“I did about six miles while in Fort Madison, but then we went down to Keokuk and that’s a bigger place, so I did about eight miles with Matt and John there.”

Hellige’s father John Hellige pedaled on a bicycle trying to keep up with two runners on Friday and Saturday. The Keokuk stop was on Saturday. The Hellige’s hosted Sullivan for the weekend.

Sullivan said he enjoyed the Fort Madison downtown, especially the pen museum.

“I never thought so much would go into a pen,” he said. “They had a picture of the 20 pieces in a ball point pen. I had no clue it had so many pieces.”

He said the Fort was interesting with staff firing the gun for him during his tour.

Research is a big part of the touring. Sullivan said he likes to have an idea of where he’d like to go so he looks to apps to search for historical perspectives. He also takes a lot of pictures.

When he gets through all the counties, towns, and townships, Sullivan wants to write some poetry about the runs and then self-publish a book about his experiences. He’s already self-published two books.

“When I run in these towns, I do a minimum of one mile, the larger the populations, the longer I run. In Keokuk ran with Matt about eight miles.”

He still wants to hit West Point in Lee County and will probably do that during the next Sweet Corn Festival run.

He said the tours really make him aware of what there is in Iowa, and he said his publishings and Facebook posts help others recognize what’s in their state and become more aware of what’s around them.

People can find him on Facebook at

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