Spring 2021 Challenge

Mark and Rosie – interviewed on St. Louis On the Air: https://news.stlpublicradio.org/show/st-louis-on-the-air/2021-04-29/21-st-louisans-challenged-themselves-to-24-hours-on-foot-finding-adventure-close-to-home

Riverfront Times covers the 24HfH Challenge – by Doyle Murphy:
https://www.riverfronttimes.com/stlouis/escape-from-st-louis/Content?oid=35383846&showFullText=true

Check out Episode 18 of The Endurance House Podcast, where I talk about the challenge, its origins and a summary of the adventure.
https://anchor.fm/theendurancehouse/episodes/Episode-18-Mark-Fingerhut-and-his-creation-of-the-24-Hours-from-Home-Challenge-eugn5t

(The below accounts of the Challenge are based solely on heresay, anecdotes, social media posts, braggadocio from the competitors, and deductions from map tracking. These observations and comments may not be 100% accurate. For more pictures, posts and details from the Challenge, click here: https://fb.me/e/20YKMugrI )

A mountain lion looking down menacingly from a bluff as challengers make their way down the Katy trail in the middle of the night? Accelerating one’s pace for the last 40 miles of the challenge in order to make the Amtrak ride home? A meteor flash that awakens a challenger walking in a zombie-like state across farm fields? Perhaps the longest documented continuous pub-crawl in history? Well, all those things happened, and quite a bit more on the inaugural version of the 24 Hours from Home Challenge.

A total of 21 brave souls opted to join the very first 24 Hours from Home Challenge. There were 5 tandems/teams, and 11 soloists. In a nutshell, each team or competitor was allowed to select their start time within a 3 and a half day window, then travel as far as their legs could carry them for up to 24 hours. It was up to them to plan their route, their support/re-supply, and their transportation home. The only requirement is that they remained in communication and trackable on a map during their entire route. Other than that, the challenge founder imposed very few rules, and it was up to the competitors to push the limits and really establish what this challenge is all about.


Thursday, March 18th at noon, the challenge window officially opened, and immediately the weather was a factor. Rainy and very windy with temps in the 40s greeted a couple competitors who considered getting an early start. My plan was to leave Thursday afternoon, but I delayed my start by 24 hours to take advantage of warmer and dryer weather forecasted for Friday. I was somewhat surprised when I received a message from Aaron Duenke, that he would be starting from New Haven, MO promptly at noon. Sure enough, from noon through the next few hours, Sara Fingerhut, our gracious race coordinator, tracked his progress as he bravely traversed the busy railroad tracks between New Haven and Hermann, before stopping for a warm-up cocktail in Hermann, then heading across the Missouri River over to the Katy trail to continue westward. Aaron persisted through the afternoon, evening and into the early morning hours. We got notification that he made it to about 5am before tapping out, near Mokane, MO. Aaron travelled a total of about 42 miles and ATCF (as the crow flies) distance of 35. The pace had been set, well done Aaron!

Sunrise Friday brought warmer temperatures and clear skies, ideal weather for starting the challenge for many.  April Gicker rose with the sun and set off into the corn fields near Scott Air Force Base in Illinois before 6am. She had support and an accompanying runner with her husband for some of the route, and throughout the day headed due east. She also made sure to stop by a few well-located dive bars for some much-needed refreshment. By early evening, she had made it all the way to Lake Carlyle, finishing a total of 33.7 miles, ATCF distance of 27 miles. Awesome!

Two tandem teams departed shortly after 9am from the highest point in the city of St. Louis near Sublette Park – all downhill for them. Elizabeth McEwen paired up with Don Hovey, visiting from Kansas City. They were joined by Angela O’Hanlon and Glenn Hooker. Their goal for the day was to make it to Wildwood, MO, a posh and distant suburb where their friends Shirley and Gordon were waiting to feed them, bathe them and entice them with libations and sweets. These two pairs certainly racked up the most style points of all the challengers, stopping at least a half dozen times at various establishments along the way to eat, drink and most certainly be merry. Pubs, restaurants, gas stations, pool halls, opium dens, park bathrooms; no place was considered off limits as a pub-crawl stop. They bravely (or stupidly) stuck to the very busy Manchester Road as the primary route, finally making it to Shirley and Gordon’s house in the evening. Angela tapped out a little early, but the other three covered an efficient 21.6 total miles, 18.3 ATCF.

Rosemary LaRocca, who Vegas had as the odds-on favorite to win the inaugural 24HfH Challenge, set out at 9:15am Friday morning from the Tower Grove area. A seasoned ultra runner, she headed towards downtown St. Louis before hopping on the riverfront trail, crossing the McKinley Bridge then heading up along the river towards Alton. She was covering some serious distance very quickly. After scaling the bluffs of Alton, she was into the boring, flat cornfields of central Illinois. Her trusty athletic supporter Andy was there the whole way. She tapped out at 9:30pm, as some of the narrow Illinois farm roads well-travelled by weekend night revelers and bar-goers in great big pickup trucks presented some pretty real danger. In just over 12 hours, Rosie covered an incredible 51.4 miles, ATCF distance of 41.77. Nice!

Sean Kulczycki was the next to depart, around 10:15am. He left his Warson Woods manse and threaded his way through the west county suburbs to Chesterfield, crossing the Boone/I-64 bridge to the Katy Trail, the first among several challengers to also choose this route. An added challenge was the flooded Chesterfield levee trail as it crossed under the bridge. I think a few challengers had to rock-hop across the rip-rap to avoid the water. Alas, Sean fell victim to the ice-cold beer of Good News Brewery in Defiance and proceeded no further, tapping out at 8:20pm, covering 28.5 miles, 21 ATCF.

Next up was yours truly, Mark Fingerhut. I left at 1:30pm, opting to get some daytime travel in before night set in. My plan was heading due South from Dogtown. I stuck to the River Des Peres Greenway, then hopped on Grant’s Trail for a bit, then Reavis Barracks/Telegraph. I grabbed a few McD’s burgers for sustenance, then faced the riskiest part of my route – crossing the Jefferson Barracks/I-255 bridge on the non-pedestrian friendly shoulder. I ran as fast as my tired legs could go, a short concrete barrier separating me from the swirly chocolate waters of the Mississippi below, and a few feet of air between me and speeding 18 wheelers. Eventually I made it to the levee on the Illinois side, where I planned to head south as far as I could make it. I enjoyed the nice sunset over the flooded river, then motivated myself to keep going til around 10pm when my friend Kelly was going to meet me with fresh gear, food and a hot coffee. It was getting pretty cold, so I layered up and continued through the night. The roads I took were ideal, almost no cars at all, and very wide-open spaces, lots of moonlight and a beautiful starry sky. It was at about 3:30am that I suddenly experienced a moment of total illumination, almost as if a helicopter shined a spotlight on me. I looked up to see the tail end of a meteor flashing across the sky above me. The back of my right knee was hurting pretty good, so I stopped at 4am at Fort de Chartres, where I found a picnic table to lay down on and catch a half hour nap. The foil/emergency blanket was critical. I got moving again, covering a few more miles as the sun rose, and met my cousin Andy near Modoc, IL. Again refreshed with some food and hot coffee, Andy joined me walking a few miles and it was great to have company. I was hoping to make it to Chester, IL, more specifically, the St. Nicholas Landmark, a pretty nice brew-pub on the Chester riverfront. But I pushed myself to 1:30pm, which was the full 24 hours and I was still about 3 or 4 miles away. Sara was there at 1:15, but I insisted on gutting out the full 24 hours. I covered 74 total miles, 54 ATCF. My route was the least efficient route of all the competitors, woohoo! But I will take the tradeoff for relatively empty roads with not a lot of hills.

Next departure was dark horse Adam Arce, leaving the Tower Grove area at 2:30pm Friday. Adam also headed through Western St. Louis towards Chesterfield, crossing over to the Katy Trail to head further West. Adam was running (A) totally unsupported (B) in socks and running sandals and (C) to make it to Hermann by noon the next day to get on the (only scheduled) Amtrak back home. I know Adam was really in the zone as I monitored some posts he made overnight, contemplating his existence and own sanity. I was right there with you, guy. Shortly before noon, we got word that Adam had indeed made it to the train station in Hermann, slightly short of the 24 hours, but with minutes to spare before getting on his all-important ride home. Adam ended up the solo winner of the 2021 24HfH Challenge, by completing a total of 85.9 miles, ATCF distance of 64.42. Congratulations, and amazing job, sir!

A very late entrant to the 24HfH Challenge was Aaron Leese, who departed at 5:10pm from Edwardsville, IL. His wife Kate met up with him later to give him some warm clothing, but he was unable to stave off the night chill, and succumbed to warm embrace of a ride back home at 8:24pm, covering 11.3 miles, around 8.5 miles from home. Aaron came in second place out of all the Aarons participating in 24HfH.

Saturday was another spectacular day weather-wise, as more competitors geared up for their challenge. Keith Hulsey got a very early 5am start from the Fox Park area, headed downtown, then over into East St. Louis and beyond. He conducted a real nice live-posted tour of sleepy Illinois communities like O’Fallon, Lebanon and Aviston. He ended his day around 4:30pm, travelling 35.52 total miles and an incredible 33.7 miles from home. Keith wins the inaugural award for most efficient route. His route was 92.28% efficient, the only competitor to crack the 90% barrier. Kudos on the route planning, Keith!

Brett Swanstrom left his home on the shores of lovely River Des Peres around 9am and headed due south. His destination was Main & Mill Brewing Company in Festus.  Brett made good progress throughout the day, encountering a veritable menagerie of roadkill along the way. He also managed to locate a few syringes along the road – presumably leftover Covid vaccines. Brett reported no side effects other than increased energy and few 5-minute miles. However, he did arrive and Main & Mill before they opened for the day, so he continued on and finished at the next best destination, a funeral home. He covered 26.6 miles, 22.3 ATCF. Good job on your marathon!

The next departure Saturday was Timmy Meiner & Tasha Murphy at 7am. They also left from Fox Park and headed West to the Chesterfield bridge crossing/Katy Trail. Timmy had his dog Shadow with him for the first 20 miles and I hear the center-divider of highway 141 is not particularly friendly to crossing with a dog. Timmy and Tasha also experienced world class support from Dan and Laura throughout their journey. It was somewhere West of Defiance and after dusk when they heard the shrill growl of a big cat. They looked up towards a bluff to see the glowing eyes of some type of cat, perhaps a mountain lion, lynx, or Siamese. I have it on good authority that Timmy acted with bravery and valor and pushed Tasha towards the cat as he ran further up the trail. The two established a back-to-back stance while moving away from the cat’s location for about 4 more miles before calling it a night. They covered a total of 40 miles, 29.6 ATCF.

Following nearly the same route as Timmy and Tasha and departing around 10am were Matt Naglich and Stephen Bacon. They departed from The Hill, also made it to Chesterfield where Laura located them and supplied them with some refreshing Miller Lites before they crossed the bridge. Matt and Stephen persevered all the way until 2:30am pushing to Dutzow, MO on the Katy Trail. They were happy to earn their half-century of 51.14 total miles and 39.35 ATCF. Matt and Stephen are the 2021 team winners, congrats dudes!

John Mitchell rolled out of bed around 9:52am and left his house at 10, for a leisurely jog through Forest Park, continuing to downtown St. Louis, across the Eads Bridge to a barstool at the sports bar at the Casino Queen. He enjoyed an afternoon watching NCAA basketball, threw back a few oat sodies before hopping on the Metro-Link back home. John covered a total of 9 miles, 7 ATCF. Congrats on your T-Shirt, buddy.

Derrick Shipley was next, departing his house in Webster Groves around 11am and heading southwest through Valley Park and Eureka. We don’t know too many details about Derrick’s journey, though looking at his location on Google Maps, Sara seemed to think he might have been running down interstate 44. He insisted he was “on the side, like on the dirt path”, but if you were travelling down 44 around then and saw someone bounding up and down the rolling hills ON THE INTERSTATE, it was probably him. Sounds like Derrick finished his day in Gray’s Summit, MO, having a beer or two with some strangers and regaling them with his tales from the road. He travelled 29 miles, 20.5 ATCF.

The last departure was Tim Baker and Brian Preston at 3:45pm on Saturday, from Oakville, MO. It looks like Tim and Brian headed south from Oakville, generally following route 61 through various towns in Northern Jefferson County. By nightfall, they had crossed over I-55 to highway 67 south, where they apparently encountered a motorist who flashed a gun at them? Rednecks gonna redneck. You’ll have to get the full story from them on that. They determined that proceeding further on highway 67 at night was too big of a risk so they ended their challenge at 9:15pm, covering 25.7 miles, 20.7 ATCF.


I have to express a huge amount of thanks to all who made this challenge happen. To the competitors for entertaining my insane idea enough to actually participate. To all the support people who also went along with your loved ones’ crazy adventure and making sure they were comfortable, well-fed, well-lubricated and transported safely. To my wife Sara for continuing to put up with my wild ideas, for tracking all the competitors, keeping them safe, for constantly updating the website and spreadsheets.

This year’s challenge was kind of a proof of concept to really see how doable something like this would be, would it actually be fun, would people be interested in following or participating in the future… You guinea pigs were valiant competitors and excellent lab rats. The thing about this challenge that really appeals to me is it’s not just about pounding out endless boring miles. It requires planning, knowledge of the area and geographical features and true grit with mental fortitude. I could see us doing this again in the future, I just need to find a lawyer to beef up our waiver after hearing some of the stories from this year.

Thanks to all,

mf

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