A short article from a local journalist who actually ran Relay Iowa | Curt Swarm

I always wanted to jog across Iowa. Logistics, age and lack of ambition were major stumbling blocks. When Relay Iowa came along, I figured this would be my best shot.

Relay Iowa is not a race, but a benefit for an AIDS orphanage in Africa. This is the fourth year for the benefit. It’s basically teams of runners that relay run across the state from Sioux City to Dubuque. Last year there were four teams, this year 11.

The team I was on, the Roadrunners, was organized by Lori and Roger Griswold of Fort Madison. It consisted of 12 runners (fools) in two vans. Each runner typically ran six-mile legs across the state, non-stop, day and night, 337 miles – sorta like RAGBRAI on foot. With 12 runners, each runner would wind up running about 28 miles over a 2 1/2-day period. Cake, right? Well, not quite.

The teams started running at the Sgt. Floyd Monument in Sioux City and wound up at Eagle Point Park in Dubuque. Crazy, right? Absolutely. Did we have fun? Without a doubt.

I was the old man on the team and the slowest, which was sort of an embarrassment, considering we had some great runners. In fact, four of our 12 team members had qualified for and run the Boston Marathon (which is only for elite runners). Gulp. But, hey, it was all for a worthy cause.

The biggest challenge to the relay was not the running, the heat or the hills and wind, but, perhaps, sleep deprivation. We had about four hours of sleep over 2 1/2 days. (Stinky bodies in cramped vehicles was the second biggest challenge.)

One of the newspapers I write for is the Graphic-Advocate out of Lake City/Rockwell City. As it happened, the Iowa Relay was passing through Lake City. I had primed the editor and sales manager, Ken Ross and Teresa Snyder, that Relay Iowa would be passing through Lake City at midnight on Friday night. I also bribed my team to let me be the runner going into Lake City. Lo and behold, both Ken and Teresa showed up to do a story. Super neat.

Some of the team names for Relay Iowa were hilarious. The grand-prize winner goes to “It Was a Good Idea in February,” followed by “Idiots Out Wandering Around,” “Dummies” and “Slow Pokes.”

The most unique runner on our team, and probably the whole relay of 114 runners, has to go to Chris Egger. He ran barefooted. Yep. Night, day, searing heat, it made no difference. Oh, some of the course was on gravel roads, and Chris did put his shoes on for gravel. But that was about the only exception. Tough feet.

It was 337 miles from Sioux City to Dubuque, and, by cracky, runners for Iowa Relay ran every step of it. Many teams, like the Roadrunners were made up of runners who had never met or were minimally acquainted. By the end, however, camaraderie and friendships had developed that might last a lifetime. When we were out there in the heat, hills and dust, suffering from sore muscles, stinky bodies and lack of sleep, it was comforting to remember what this was all about – an AIDS orphanage in Africa. We didn’t have it so bad. What’s one more mile?