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Runner and motivational speaker Jim Ellis enjoys a cup of coffee in Clinton, which is just one of many stops on his tour across Iowa, running 1,500 miles.

Natalie Conrad/Clinton Herald
Herald Staff Writer

One man is on a mission to inspire and motivate people across Iowa by running 1,500 miles.

Runner and motivational speaker Jim Ellis left a job he loved to fulfill his goal of going on a running and speaking tour that brought him through Clinton this week.

“My goal is to help people of all ages find what they're good at to enrich their lives,” Ellis said. “I want to encourage them to discover and try new things.”

Originally from Denver, Colorado, Ellis attended Northwestern College in Orange City, obtaining a degree in education and ministry before becoming a Middle School Director at Sunnybrook Community Church in Sioux City for five years.

He left his job to spend five months planning his ‘Awake My Sole’ journey across the state, departing on Jan. 9 from Sioux City to commence the adventure.

“It was kind of scary at first,” Ellis said. “I left a job I loved and had went to college for to do something completely different, but it has been so rewarding."

Ellis fell in love with distance running when he was 17, when he completed his first marathon to impress a girl. Since then he continued to run, doing several more marathons throughout college.

It wasn't until a friend approached him one day that he seriously considered going on a 1,500 mile journey.

"They asked me if I had ever thought of running and speaking across the country," Ellis said. "At first I thought that was crazy, but then I thought about it and decided Iowa would be the perfect place to do it. I wanted to use my gifts of running and speaking to help others."

Throughout his journey, Ellis runs every Monday and then spends a week in each community speaking to church groups, youth groups, schools, nursing homes and more.

The distances between cities ranges from 25 to 67 miles, all of which Ellis runs in one day. His down and back journey started in Sioux City and weaved across the state through 20 cities, including Spencer, Fort Dodge, Des Moines, Iowa City, Dubuque and Waterloo. 

While running he eats gels, salt tablets and other items to stay energized and hydrated. He pushes all his gear in a 150 pound cart he takes with him everywhere and stays with host families in each city.

"I was lucky enough to find plenty of people to host me in each city," Ellis said. "Everyone has been very welcoming."

For some this would be a lonely trip, but Ellis says he enjoys running both alone and with people. Several friends have joined him for portions of his journey as well as new runners he has met along the way, but one companion is constant.

Charley, a small Kermit stuffed animal, goes with Ellis everywhere, hitching a ride on his cart. After reading 'Travels with Charley' by John Steinbeck, a tale about a man traveling with his dog Charley, Ellis really wanted to bring a dog with him.

He realized with the extent of his journey and constantly staying with host families a dog would not be a good idea, so he pulled out an old friend that his grandparents had given him when he was young. His grandfather’s middle name was also Charley, so the name fit perfectly.

The second half of the journey continues to Davenport next week followed by Iowa City and Grinnell on his way back to the start in Sioux City. Ellis will also be getting married along the way in September and his wife will join him for the rest of the way providing vehicle support. The journey is expected to reach its conclusion on December 23 after nearly a year of running and speaking across Iowa.

"I want to make sure people are doing what they're passionate about," Ellis said. "A lot of people lose sight of that and struggle to find purpose."

To find out more about Ellis and Awake My Sole check out awakemysole.com or the Awake My Sole Facebook page.