Heart of America Marathon Report
- September 7, 2009 -
Psalm 18:33 - He makes my feet like hinds' feet, and sets me upon my high places.
Temperature at start - 63 degrees F
For me, the fall marathon season officially kicks off with the Heart of America Marathon. This was the 50th anniversary of what many call one of the toughest marathons in the U.S. I have had the pleasure to run this course seven times -- the first two with shoes in 2000 and 2001, respectively. The last five times have been barefoot. Not only is this one of the most demanding courses in the country for most marathoners, it becomes even more of a challenge to a barefoot runner, such as myself, when running the three mile gravel section of this 26.2 mile Ozarkian roller-coaster. Fortunately for me (since I was the only barefoot runner this year, and am the only barefoot runner to have ever completed this course), the county deferred re-graveling Smith Hatchery Road which they always seem to do in the late spring or during summer. Consequentially, large sections of the normally gravel upon gravel section were polished dirt and gravel much like concrete from the constant compacting by vehicles. The following pictures were taken the evening before the marathon as I drove the course, checking out the road conditions.
The marathon started at 6 a.m. as it has for decades in front of the Hearnes Center and Faurot Field on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia. Generally, I try to shoot for a sub-four hour marathon. However, my running has not been up to par this summer due to a right knee ache. I am 95% healed, but I decided to hold back and not force an outcome today. I thought as long as I can run the entire course and come in under 5 hours, I will be content. We started out in the dark, foggy morning meandering south from Columbia to the Missouri River bottoms. Personally, I think the first half is harder although most of the huge hills are during the second half; probably because I had to nurse my knee on the down hills making sure I didn't put undue stress on it as I descended. And, also because of the gravel roads between miles nine and thirteen. Nonetheless, it was pretty much an "auto pilot" first half as I just put on the cruise control and didn't bother looking at my watch incessantly to check my pace. I just cruised and felt fine. Once we got to the small town of Easley, then our journey took us back north and up Easley Hill, spoken of by many as the "Pike's Peak of the Ozarks". This behemoth is only the first of many hills in the remainder of the course. Like the first half, I just put it on auto pilot and cruised along, chatting with folks along the way about barefoot running and why I ran this way (a great opportunity to talk about the Free Wheelchair Mission and "what would Jesus do"?).
At about mile 19, I got a call from the local CBS affiliate KCRG-TV on my cell phone wanting to know where I was on the course. I finally met up with the reporter at about mile 25 where he got some "footage" of me during the last mile of the race. I ended up crossing the finish line at 4 hours, 26 minutes, and 2 seconds. Not my normal marathon time, but better than I expected. I hung out for a bit at the finish line, completing my interview with the TV reporter and then headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up and to head back to Kansas City.
Heart of America Marathon is one of my favorites of the many different venues I've run. It is small and usually very hot on Labor Day (we caught a huge break this year!). I have told many people that if you're looking for a marathon with lots of glitz and glamour, stay away from this one. It's a tough course. I've told the race director on more than one occasion -- this race is not for sissies! On the other hand, if you like a challenge and enjoy beautiful country landscapes with an occasional "good job" from a spectator or a brief chat with another solitary runner, then this is the marathon for you!
A little post-race soaking in the traditional HOA "ice bath"!
9/11/ Patriots Run - September 11, 2009 (This is a nine hour, 11 minute run -- three years ago I ran 40.1 barefoot miles at this event).
Omaha Marathon - September 27, 2009
Waddell and Reed Kansas City Marathon - October 13, 2009
Gobbler Grind Marathon - November 22, 2009
Dallas White Rock Marathon - December
*I am a marathon runner and do not prescribe to a run/walk method for MY marathons. Likewise, I do not judge anyone else for "finishing" a marathon in whatever way they can propel themselves across the finish line, whether it be walking, crawling, etc. All marathon finishes are notable in their own regard.
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