Iowa resident acquires fame by running through all 99 counties

Local man, Tyler Sullivan, decided to explore every county in Iowa and later decided to run a mile through each city on the Iowa road map.

Runner+Tyler+Sullivan+jogs+on+a+trail+at+City+Park+in+Iowa+City+on+June+11%2C+2022.

Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Runner Tyler Sullivan jogs on a trail at City Park in Iowa City on June 11, 2022.

Kate Murphy, News Reporter


A North Liberty resident, Tyler Sullivan, made up his mind in 2015 to run through all of Iowa’s 99 counties. He’s made it to 92 so far.

While driving to visit his girlfriend in Mason City in 2015, Tyler Sullivan noticed that he didn’t recognize any county he drove by.

“I went through all these counties on my way there that I’d never even heard of, and I’ve lived in Iowa my whole life,” Sullivan said.

He hopes to inspire other Iowans to explore the small towns and hidden gems that make Iowa special.

For the past four years, Sullivan has been running a mile in every county on his Iowa tour.

“My friend from 2018 asked me ‘why haven’t you run these?’ I was a runner for years,” Sullivan said. “So I did research on all 99 counties and decided to run through all of them.’’

Sullivan, born and raised in the Iowa City area, discovered his passion for running when he went out for track as a seventh-grader in 2000. Sullivan started out as a sprinter, but then shifted to long-distance running thanks to his coach, Bob Brown.

Sullivan said having Brown, who died from pancreatic cancer in 2007, as a coach is one of the biggest reasons he decided to run through all the counties.

Sullivan has been to 92 counties so far. One of his favorite stops is in Ida County.

“It’s a town with man-made castles I visited in 2018 or ‘19. It’s an awesome hidden gem that people should check out.”

Sullivan named Preparation Canyon in Harrison County as one of his favorite lesser-known spots in Iowa, with its 344-acre park that offers hiking, picnicking, and camping.

Sullivan has had a couple of friends join him on his mission, too.

“My good friend Ryan joined me for a bit and another friend Rick joined me when I went to Pocahontas County, which is one of my favorite counties,” Sullivan said. “I had three rules for joining me: pick a county, don’t ever pay for gas, and I promise a good time.”

Sullivan said the people he’s met along the way are part of what makes the journey so special.

“Everybody is so welcoming.” he said. “I’ll post pictures of where I am on my Facebook, and I’ll have people ask, ‘Are you living on foot? Do you need a place to stay?’”

Sullivan has been adjusting to his newfound fame, which started on his Facebook page, “Iowa Scenic Views By Foot,” where he updates his latest whereabouts.

“It’s crazy that a year ago I only had 400 followers; now I have over 10k,” Sullivan said. “I’m just an ordinary guy exploring a great state.”

Sullivan’s most recent visit was to the Ice House Museum in Cedar Falls. Carrie Eilderts, executive director of the Cedar Falls Historical Society, said she remembers Sullivan visiting the establishment the first weekend in June.

“By documenting his journey online, Sullivan is able to bring a lot of positive publicity to the state by showing that Iowa can be a tourist destination with lots of unique things to see and do,” Eilderts said. “Hopefully, people who are following his journey online will be inspired to visit the same places he has visited, which they may have never heard of otherwise.”

Sullivan wrote poems for each county he’s visited so far.

“I visited The Kaleidoscope Factory in Pocahontas, and I wrote a poem all about it,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said he’s also working on a book series, starting with the northwest corner counties. He plans to write multiple books that will soon be created as one book of Iowa.

Sullivan said he’ll take about three more years to get to the seven counties he has left to visit.

“Cool thing is, I’m only going to one more this year; I’m saving them because I don’t want the journey to end,” he said.

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