Leo McMillen is always up for a good challenge.
So when then-mayor of Lexington Scotty Baesler came up with the idea of an "employee Olympics" in the early 1980s, city employee McMillen jumped on board by running in the Bluegrass 10,000.
McMillen has been running and walking ever since.
Sunday, he completed his quest to compete in every one of Kentucky's 120 counties by walking the 5,000-meter Furry Run in Crittenden County. He believes he is the first person to accomplish the county-by-county foot tour of the state.
Never miss a local story.
For one, it's not easy finding a race in some counties.
Ballard County was one of the last on his list, several weeks ago.
"The first time they'd ever had a race, according to what they told us," he said. "There was 18 of us for a 5K.
"We definitely had problems trying to find (races), but fortunately I've got a lot of good friends who keep their eyes out and they'd tell me, find ones, because they knew what I was trying to do."
It's also a good idea to contact the local Chamber of Commerce, which is how he found last Sunday's race.
McMillen, who lives in Lexington and turns 78 on Thursday, has been walking courses this year after undergoing a second knee replacement in January.
He puts in a workout of about 4 miles each Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday with pals Cathy May and Mary Helfenberger. Most races occur on a Saturday, although he occasionally "gets lucky" and can double up with a Friday night and Saturday morning race.
He entered 60 races last year, completing 57 — his knee finally said "no more" in December.
"If you've got some friends with you, that makes it easier, too," said McMillen, who almost always has acquaintances join him at the races.
He has favorite races, such as the Twinkie Run in Boyle County where entrants must predict their time; no watches allowed.
"Tim Bailey puts one on in Owingsville at Halloween, and you run through the cemetery and back to Bath County High School," McMillen said. "I enjoy all of them."
McMillen says he got his idea to run in every county after reading the book Run, Kentucky, Run, in which author Donald Mather listed all the counties in which he had run. McMillen thought why not run in every county. Distances have ranged from 3,000 meters to a marathon. His favorite distance is 10,000 meters when he's able to run.
"I'm not fast; I'm slow," he said. "But still, it's just all the people you meet and the friends you've made all across the state. It's really good."
Running has taken him beyond the commonwealth's borders, too, for marathons including Boston, Chicago, New York, St. Louis and Ireland, and for 10-milers in Washington, D.C., and Hawaii.
"We had a ball," McMillen said of Sunday's Furry Run, which he completed in 42 minutes, 12 seconds. "It was really hilly, but it was good. Not really steep hills, just gradual long ones."
His "Team Leo" — running pals who accompanied him to Crittenden County — numbered 16. All had T-shirts emblazoned with "I run in Kentucky" and showing all 120 counties within the outline of the state. The shirts were an idea conceived by McMillen's wife, Sue, whose race-day job is to have his sport towel ready for use.
"We had a wonderful time," McMillen said. "We couldn't ask for anything better, weather-wise and the race. It was fantastic."