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“Every different street is a different adventure.” Correctional officer runs across Iowa for fallen coworkers

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Tyson runs with his dad in 2019.
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Miller and his son Tyson supporting their go to NFL team.
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WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) -- As of Wednesday, Ryan Miller has been running a marathon a day, plus biking another 15 miles after that.

He sounds like a fitness junkie, but he's actually just a runner using his hobby to make sense of a sudden loss.

Miller works as a correctional officer at the Anamosa State Penitentiary where officer Robert McFarland and nurse Lorena Schulte died when two inmates tried to escape on March 23, 2021.

“There's been a lot of different motivations but you know throughout the day lot of times I'll think about Robert and Lorena," Miller said. "I'll think about myself personally, my son, my family everyone watching, friends, and everyone who's come out and supported this thing.”

He'll cover 339 miles from the Missouri River in Sioux City before ending in Dubuque on Saturday, June 12th. His "Run Across Iowa 2021" is to pay tribute to both correctional officers who were killed in that attack.

WATCH: "Vision Runner" to run the length of Iowa in honor of staff killed at Anamosa State Penitentiary

The run also serves as a fundraiser for McFarland's family. As of Wednesday afternoon, a GoFundMe had almost $9,500 of a $20,000 goal with a goal of giving the family an unforgettable vacation.

The late McFarland, who was also a volunteer firefighter, left a lasting impact on Miller. When he first started at the prison, Miller worked on the same shift as McFarland. He says the father of 3 was the type of positive influence you want to have in the workplace.

"Robert’s family is very thankful Ryan has chosen to help honor Robert and Lorena Schulte, who also lost her life alongside Robert on that terrible day.  We hope Ryan’s 'Run Across Iowa' helps bring awareness to the hard work and dedication of all the members of the Department of Corrections."

Family of Officer Robert McFarland

With his parents in tow as a support team, Miller started his run on June 4th in Sioux City along with runners from Relay Iowa, which plotted the route he's following.

“We're a little beat up. We got a couple days left here," Miller said.

Between the 90 degrees heat and aiming to run an average of 40 miles a day, Miller quickly found that to complete his goal, and stay healthy, he needed to adjust the plan of just running the route.

“We're on day 6 and I still have no idea where I'm at. So you know all of it, every different street is a different adventure," Miller said.

While bummed, Miller believes adventures like this come with adjustments. After the first couple days, he decided it was necessary to change to running a marathon worth of miles each day, about 26.2 miles, and then biking to the needed 40 to finish in time.

“We're about 100-120 miles from finishing this thing out. We've done about 220 of it so far," Miller said.

One of his biggest supports and inspirations is his young son, Tyson, who joined his dad on the last stretch before he crossed the 100-mile mark, celebrating the milestone with a first bump. The name "Vision Runner" comes from the discovery and subsequent challenges that Tyson had "very poor" eyesight.

Inspired by his son, Miller lives by the idea that we should challenge ourselves to do something difficult, offering some final words of advice.

“Whether it's going after a promotion at work, having a difficult conversation with somebody, rebuilding a relationship, or running 339 miles," Miller said. "Whatever your thing is, go out and attack it and you can do it.”

If you would like to donate to the Robert McFarland Family Fund, click here.

You can watch more coverage of the events and changes at Anamosa, here.

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Taylor Vessel

Multimedia Reporter

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