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21 St. Louisans Challenged Themselves To 24 Hours On Foot, Finding Adventure Close To Home

Mark Fingerhut
During his 24-hour solo journey into southern Illinois last month, Mark Fingerhut was struck by a feeling of peace he had along the quiet landscapes he traversed.

Several summers ago, during an overnight stretch of a long kayak race across the state of Missouri, Mark Fingerhut and a paddling friend got to talking. The way Fingerhut remembers it, the two were “delirious in the middle of the night” out on the Missouri River and had a wild idea.

“We stumbled on the concept of blindfolding your friend and driving an hour away and having them find their way back home,” Fingerhut told St. Louis on the Air.

Mark Fingerhut
When he's not paddling rivers or running 70-some miles in 24 hours, Mark Fingerhut works as a product manager for a local software company.

They ultimately decided that plan was too much, too “sketchy,” even among their adventurous associates. But then they had another thought: “What if everyone started from home and just went as far you could away from home?”

Last month, Fingerhut finally acted on that long-ago idea: In mid-March, the software professional set out from his home in St. Louis’ Dogtown neighborhood to see how far his feet could take him over the course of 24 hours. And he persuaded 20 fellow St. Louisans to do the same, dubbing the adventure the 24 Hours from Home Challenge.

“Being at home quite a bit during the pandemic, of course, and just itching to find something, find an adventure, to be able to get outside and just do something, I think the idea just kind of came from boredom initially,” Fingerhut said.

As the Riverfront Times’ Doyle Murphy detailed in a recent cover story, for some participants this meant a 20-mile “leisurely stroll” from the city limits out toward Wildwood, Missouri. For Fingerhut, the adventure took him deeply southeast toward Chester, Illinois — “74 miles, 54 as the crow flies.”

Mark Fingerhut
Running along the shoulder across the Jefferson Barracks Bridge proved to be the most treacherous part of Mark Fingerhut's solo adventure.

On Thursday’s show, Fingerhut joined host Sarah Fenske to reflect on the experience, and fellow participant Rosemary LaRocca called in to offer her perspective as well.

“The community who joined this challenge for the first time was a huge range of people — super competitive runners, great runners, all the way down to some of our pubcrawlers who went along with it,” Fingerhut said. “So that was a beautiful part of it, the range of skills and the range of people we had take part in this.”

Most of those who accepted Fingerhut’s challenge were members of a local chapter of the Hash House Harriers, a worldwide network of people who get together to go on runs. The Hashers sometimes describe themselves as “a drinking club with a running problem,” with various members selecting a route to run, typically off the beaten path and with a beer stop along the way.

But after seeing how this first 24-hour challenge took off among his friends and associates, Fingerhut is thinking seriously about planning another and emphasizes that it’s the kind of activity he wants to be open to anyone interested — a microadventure.

“It’s all about recognizing the things around you as not just your everyday scenes, your everyday occurrences, but to see the possibilities and the possibilities for adventure in your surroundings,” Fingerhut said.

The Challenges And Joys Of 24 Solid, And Solo, Hours On Foot
Listen as host Sarah Fenske talks with Mark Fingerhut and Rosemary LaRocca about their overnight microadventures in the St. Louis region.

LaRocca, an ultramarathoner, was enthusiastic about the challenge from the moment Fingerhut told her about it. She decided to head north from her south St. Louis home into Illinois.

“As soon as you hit that farmland, you can just go straight for quite a distance,” LaRocca said.

But that doesn’t mean the 50 miles she put in were without challenges.

“Usually during my runs the safety measures are about trying not to trip over roots or fall off a cliff, but this was more ‘don’t get hit by cars,’” LaRocca explained. “Shoulders are much smaller than you think they are, too, when you’re running or walking on them rather than driving by them.”

That particular hazard ultimately prompted LaRocca to end her challenge just under 12 hours in.

Each participant put a lot of thought into their individual strategy. For Fingerhut, starting in the early afternoon made the most sense.

“To me, it was going to be a big challenge to start out early in the morning, run-slash-walk all day, and then continue on through the entire night,” he said. “I felt like that would have just been very mentally challenging and exhausting. So what I decided to do is, I slept a little late, took a nap Friday morning, and then set out in the afternoon so that I had a chunk of daylight hours but I wouldn’t be completely exhausted by the time night came.”

Mark Fingerhut
Once he crossed the Mississippi River, Mark Fingerhut entered a quiet, peaceful landscape for many miles.

In retrospect, he thinks that plan worked out well. After pushing through the night, he had just a handful of hours left and dawn greeting him.

“I think I was reenergized by the sun coming up and was able to finish it out,” Fingerhut explained.

Edging him out to emerge as the winner of the challenge was Fingerhut’s friend Adam, who headed west along the Katy Trail, making it all the way to Hermann, Missouri.

“He was doing this completely self-supported — he had all the gear and food in a small backpack, and he needed to get to Hermann so that he could get the Amtrak to get back to St. Louis at noon,” Fingerhut said.

“He told me that he was about 40 miles from Hermann and started doing the math, and he realized he really needed to pick it up if he wanted to get to his train in time. And he did make it to Hermann with about 10 minutes to spare before he had to jump on the train to go back home.”

Have you taken to wandering beyond your own neighborhood to explore your geography in new ways over the past 13 months? How have those ramblings changed your perspective on your environment?

Tweet us (@STLonAir), send an email to talk@stlpr.org or share your thoughts via our St. Louis on the Air Facebook group.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Evie is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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