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20 miles a day on foot: Running across Minnesota for a cause far, far away

Four Venture Expedition runners make their way from Clara City to Willmar on Wednesday, part of a 200-mile run from the South Dakota border to Wisconsin. Running along state Highway 23 are, from left, Dallas Horne, Greg Vargo, Paige Appel, and Aaron Coe. Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny

RAYMOND — If the plight of refugees in Burma and Thailand seems like something far, far away, consider how distant the Wisconsin border appears from South Dakota when you’re traveling by foot.

Covering that ground at a jogger’s pace is the challenge facing four motivated runners, three in their 30s, the fourth in her 20s.

“A nice run to just kind of cruise through,’’ said Aaron Coe, of Portland, Oregon, of the 200 mile-route they are running.

Coe is the most experienced of the runners.  He has competed in ultra-marathons. They made Willmar their destination on Wednesday night after a 7:30 a.m. start in Clara City.

The four started on the South Dakota border west of Dawson on Saturday. They have been averaging 20-miles a day as they make their way to the Wisconsin side of the Stillwater lift bridge, which they hope to reach July 4.

They are participating in a Minnesota run organized by Venture Expeditions, which is based in Minneapolis. Originally started by students at North Central College in Minneapolis, the Christian-based organization hosts fund-raising expeditions across the country to benefit charitable projects across the globe.

These runners are raising funds for religious charities helping refugees in Burma, also known as Myanmar, and Thailand. Many of the refugees lack basic necessities, including food.

“So they walk into things they normally wouldn’t,’’ said Danielle Towner, who serves as the one-person support team for the runners.

The organizations helping the refugees are working to prevent them from falling into prostitution or smuggling drugs to support themselves.

All four of the runners said they were motivated by a desire to help those less fortunate.

Their experience levels varied. Paige Appel, a Saint Cloud State University student from St. Croix Falls, Wis., is making her first long-distance run. College friends who participated last year inspired her, she said.

Dallas Horne, of Dallas, Texas, is making his third trip with the organization. His previous was a bicycle ride from Los Angeles to Washington D.C.

Each of the runners had to raise at least $2,600 to participate, according to Towner. At least $1,000 of the funds each runner raises is donated to religious organizations helping refugees in Burma and Thailand, according to Venture Projects.

Towner said the runners are staying at churches and the homes of hosts along the way. They speak at churches and have received donations for their mission along the way.

They will be following U.S. Highway 12 east from Willmar this morning. To learn more about their run or the organization visit their website at

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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