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Running For Hospitality Workers, Drury Hotels Exec Sets Fastest Known Time On Katy Trail

Eric Strand on the trail
Eric Strand

Longtime St. Louisan Eric Strand has worked in the hospitality industry for nearly 40 years, doing many different jobs before becoming the chief operating officer for Drury Hotels. And when the COVID-19 crisis left many frontline hospitality workers in the lurch, Strand wanted to do something to help them out.

So last week, he set up a GoFundMe charity page and challenged himself to run the entire length of the Katy Trail system — more than 240 miles — in hopes of raising money for those affected.

Strand — a passionate long-distance runner — set out near Clinton, Missouri, and ultimately finished the trek in just three days and a little over 14 hours, beating out the previous fastest known time of three days and about 18 hours. 

This wasn’t the first time Strand ran a wildly long distance. He told host Sarah Fenske on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air that his longest run previous to this was 115 miles. But when he reached that 115-mile mark on the Katy Trail, he realized he wasn’t even “halfway done.”

Still, Strand persisted with the help of cheers from supporters and encouraging donation totals pouring in along the way for the Above and Beyond Foundation. All of that helped to keep him motivated. 

“There was a fair amount of responsibility built into doing your best once you see that many people helping out,” Strand said. “It was exciting to see there were many people interested in this cause, and it kept me going.”

Listen to the discussion:

As a result of his run, Strand’s GoFundMe effort blew well past the original goal he’d set of $10,000, raising more than $40,000 in a little over a week.

“[I’m] blown away by the generosity of people,” Strand said. “There’s a lot of good people that understand the need to give back to those who have touched them through their service and kindness over these years. … I’m proud of what they’ve done [to help].”

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, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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