When Daren Wendell crossed the CSX railroad tracks at U.S. Highway 40 and Highland Road on Monday afternoon, it marked the 68th consecutive day he had run a marathon.
“The goal is to run 100 marathons in 100 days to raise $100,000,” Wendell said just after finishing his 29.4-mile jog that started around 8 a.m. at the St. Louis Arch and ended around 3:30 p.m. just west of Highland.
The money will be used by Lifewater International to provide clean drinking water for people in eastern Africa.
“That ($100,000) will serve 2,500 people in Ethiopia with clean water for life,” Wendell said.
UNICEF estimates that 22 percent of Ethiopian children under 5 years of age die due illness often caused by unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation.
Wendell said the idea of the 100 marathons came during another walk across the country he did. (He has not only walked 3,400 miles across the nation, he also biked 4,000 across the country, hiked the Appalachian Trail, swam 50.6 miles across Lake Michigan, participated in an Ironman competition in Louisville, Ky., and done countless marathons and half-marathons to raise money.)
This latest adventure started on New Year’s Day, when Wendell took off from the pier in Santa Monica, Calif. A little more than three months later, he has crossed into the Prairie State. With more than 2/3 of his runs completed, he is about 90 percent to his monetary goal.
“We are close to $90,000 right now,” said Wendell, who would like to raise even more money for the people of Ethiopia, if possible.
“It is a beautiful country. They are a beautiful people. They are not a whole lot different than us. They just don’t have the resources we do here in the U.S.,” said Wendell, an Ohio native.
But Wendell is not running alone. On his way across the country, local runners have joined him — not only for the trek, but in the quest.
Aaron Reuter, a sophomore at O’Fallon Township High School and a member of the cross country team, was alongside Wendell on Monday. He had a day off school to run. Through pledges, Reuter has been raising money on his own for the cause. He has raised $1,154, about 3/4 of his goal.
Karen Morris of Lebanon, who also accompanied Wendell, said on Monday that she had heard about it through the local running group, the Road Warriors.
“I saw it, and I just wanted to be a part of it,” said Morris, who also plans on going to South Africa for a mission trip with her church this summer.
“Africa was just kind of in our hearts already,” she said.
To make a donation, help raise money or to run with Wendell, visit the website www.rundarenrun.com/.