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PHOTO GALLERY: 50th Annual Heart of America marathon

Monday, September 7, 2009 | 4:29 p.m. CDT; updated 7:58 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 7, 2009
Carolyn Mitchell, 72 (#39), of Lenexa, Kan., waves in triumph, with Karen Nicholson, (#167), close behind as she crosses the finish line of the 50th Annual Heart of America Marathon on Monday. Mitchell was one of the last participants to finish and had planned to run with her husband, Kent Mitchell, but he was sidelined with an injury.

The 50th Annual Heart of America marathon held Monday is considered one of the most difficult in the United States because of the heat and the grade of hills. Most competitive runners avoid it because of its potential impact on their national standings.

From left: Peggy Horner, Marie Kerl, Kate Floros, Andrea and Tom Allen track the progress of participants as they approach the finish line of the 50th Annual Heart of America marathon, on Monday. Tom Allen has helped staff the marathon for over 20 years. "I like to see the runners come in. I know what they've gone through," he said.
Karen Mills, 27, left, and Chris Bowling, 40, both of Columbia, push for the finish line of the 50th Annual Heart of America marathon on Monday. The annual marathon is considered one of the most difficult in the United States because of the heat and the grade of hills, and most competitive runners avoid it because of its potential impact on their national standings.
Boonsom Hartman, 52 of Oak Forest, Ill., receives a hug after completing the 50th Annual Heart of America marathon on Monday. Hartman, known as the "Lipstick Lady" for the fresh lipstick she applies before crossing every finish line, wore #200 in honor of her 200th marathon.
Chad Rogers, 26, of Columbia is overcome with emotion as he finishes the 50th Annual Heart of America marathon. The marathon is considered one of the most difficult in the United States with more competitive racers avoiding it because of the race's potential impact on their standings.
Darrell James, 48, left, of Corvina, Calif., and Joe Bechtold, 42, right, of Columbia relax in the cool-down tank after completing the 50th Annual Heart of America marathon on Monday. The marathon is considered one of the most difficult in the United States because of the heat and grade of many of its hills; most competitive runners skip the competition because of its potential impact on their national standings.
Rick Roeber, 53, also known as Barefoot Rick, shows his foot as he relaxes in the cool-down pool after completing the 50th Annual Heart of America marathon on Monday. Roeber has run in many marathons without shoes since October 2003, including the Boston Marathon.
Medals, Gatorade and water await the runners who complete the 50th Annual Heart of America marathon, on Monda. Most runners prefer water because it's not as sweet, said Carl Schulte. Schulte, whose parents were founding members of the Columbia Track Club, flew in from Irvine, Calif., to volunteer for the race and has been part of the race for about 38 years.
Jay Giddings, 35, kisses his fiancee, Julie Hochwender, after completing the 50th Heart of America marathon on Monday. The couple became engaged when Giddings stopped and proposed at the bottom of Easley Hill during last year's race. They plan to marry in July of 2010.
Newell Kitchen, 50, of Columbia rests after completing the 50th Annual Heart of America marathon on Monday. The Heart of America marathon is considered one of the most difficult in the United States because of the weather and some of the inclines during the race.
Bekkie Wright, 46, does a cartwheel across the finish line of the 50th Annual Heart of America marathon on Monday. Wright and Joseph Poliquin, 57, traveled from East Hartford, Conn., to participate in the race, one of the most grueling in the United States.

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