"Really, I just took a map, laid it on the ground and set stones along a path I thought I could run."
While he set out to run and share his experience with others, Ellis gained new experiences with every stop he made.
"One host family put me up in their VW bus," Ellis said. "They didn't have much room in their home, but they had this bus parked outside."
He was sitting at a coffee shop in Grinnell when he met Michael Emerson, star of ABC's "Lost" and CBS's "Person of Interest."
Several of his experiences he would share with those he met, quite literally, along the road.
"I almost got arrested running from Spencer and Storm Lake," he said, laughing. "Someone called the cops about a woman running with her baby down the highway in February. The cop pulled me over to check it out, and I had to explain to him what I was doing."
Some have come alongside him to run part of the way with him.
"A man named Dirk Whitebreast came to run with me," Ellis said. "This guy runs marathons to raise awareness about suicide, specifically among Native Americans."
Whitebreast has run more than 40 marathons, including a series of 10 marathons run in 30 days.
Perhaps the most life changing experience for Ellis was getting married to his wife, Chantalle, in September.
"We were going to get married in June," he said, "but we decided to move up the wedding so that she could come along on this experience with me."
He continued. "When we are older, and I talk about this journey, she'll be able to relate. She's been a wonderful support on this trip."
While mapping out his route, Ellis knew that he wanted to get to his final stop and run back. In doing so, he was able to reconnect with those he met on the first leg of his journey, though sometimes in different locations.
"My first time in Webster City, I spoke to a track team. On my way back, I stopped in Storm Lake and ran into one of the seniors from the track team, who was now attending Buena Vista," Ellis said.
From the beginning of his run, Ellis' message has always been about finding passion within life.
"The whole idea is to use your gifts and abilities to glorify God," Ellis said. "This doesn't necessarily mean you have to give up your responsibilities to do what you love, but you have to find a way to incorporate what you love into what you do."
He continued. "It would be a bummer to get to 70 and realize you did a job you hated, with no joy, just to pay off a house."
Ellis has spoken to groups of all ages, from elementary students to senior citizens. The message remains the same.
"It was really fun to speak to a retirement community -- I call them "cool elderly peeps" -- because they've got so much life left in them. They're not done yet."
One thing he encourages everyone to do is to set big, long-term, seemingly unachievable goals.
"I call them "big, hairy, audacious goals," he said. "You may never achieve them, but you're always moving forward towards them."
His year of running is coming to a close, and the Ellises are starting to think about what life will look like in their next chapter.
"Chantalle would like to go to school in Denver, which is also where my family's from," Ellis said. "We might be in Bismark for a bit, though."
He continued. "When you think you have everything figured out, that's when you realize you don't."
Ellis plans on writing about his journey, which was a goal of his from the beginning.
His own big, hairy, audacious goal is to create a mentor group for middle school boys, where adult runners invest time and energy into the boys to help them achieve goals in their lives.
"A lot of people, when they want to make a difference, they feel they have to go to some far-off land," he said. "But if you can take a young kid for a six-month period, helping him set goals physically, mentally, and possibly spiritually, you can change his life."