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MU student suits up for Heart of America Marathon

Thursday, August 30, 2012 | 9:54 p.m. CDT; updated 9:42 a.m. CDT, Friday, August 31, 2012
Steven Mankofsky trains for the Heart of America Marathon on Aug. 22 at Stankowski Field. Mankofsky is attempting to beat the current Guinness World Record for running a marathon in a full suit, which is 3 hours 24 minutes. He trains at Stankowski Field during the week and runs the course route on the weekend.

COLUMBIA — Breaking a world record is not a spur-of-the-moment thing. Olympic athletes practice for years to have their name at the top of a record book.

Steven Mankofsky made the decision in one day: July 10.

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"Me and my friends were just discussing getting a Guinness record, and I just looked at their website and I found this and I thought I could do it," the 22-year-old MU student said.

He plans to run the fastest time ever in a marathon.

In a business suit.

The St. Louis native will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon run in a suit on Labor Day at the 53rd annual Heart of America Marathon.

Ireland’s Paul Buchanan set the record on Oct. 26, 2009, at the Lifestyles Sports – Adidas Dublin Marathon in Dublin. He finished the 26.2-mile race in 3 hours, 24 minutes and 46 seconds. 

Mankofsky will need to shave at least 12 minutes off his time of 3 hours, 36 minutes and 46 seconds from last year’s Heart of America, his first time ever competing in a marathon. He did not wear the suit for that race.

“Last time I did Heart of America I vowed to never do it again after I did it,” he said, wearing red gym shorts and no top. “I wasn’t really training; I just kind of did it.”

The first-year graduate student will attempt to break the record to raise money for the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri. It is one of the highest rated charities in the nation according to Charity Navigator, something Mankofsky looks for in an organization.

“Me being a business student, I like to help things that are financially transparent and show financial solvency,” he said, adding that he likes to “eat a lot of food.”

When not decked out in his white shirt, tan Fioravanti jacket and khaki pants with a red stain on the left back pocket, you can find the tall, slim man in typical college gear: flip flops, blue jeans, a baseball cap and a Wu-Tang Clan collage T-shirt. 

If you think he is crazy, join a club that includes his training mate, Karl Roskamp.

“It’s hot enough at 80 degrees, and it’s only going to be magnified wearing the suit jacket and collared shirt,” said Roskamp, a senior broadcast journalism major. “I would actually be impressed if he finished.”

But then again, Mankofsky  has never been the type to take anything too seriously, Roskamp said.

Last year Mankofsky was the brains of an operation that led a friend to dress up as a pizza delivery man who attempted to sell a half eaten apple pie to students around campus and his apartment complex near Ashland Road. It sold for $3.

Roskamp finds it ironic that Mankofsky would do something as serious as raising money for a good cause since "he's just a goofy character" who is loose and outgoing.

Even Mankofsky, who stands at 6-foot-1 but considers himself "5-12," admits to just enjoying life for what it is.

"I guess I don't take most things seriously," he said, adding that if he did he wouldn't be competing in a business suit.

"I look pretty ridiculous."

He has used that humor and charm to raise $1,478 so far at the Food Bank and will match the final amount with his own funds. He said that when approaching businesses to help sponsor his cause, he wears the suit to separate himself from any other person raising money. He seeks to be out of the ordinary.

Fellow MU Running Club member Olivia Harrison agreed with her teammates. 

“I think it's different, but it fits him,” she said. “He’s showed up from not running for awhile, and he’ll come out here and run very well.”

Mankofsky, in his fifth year in the MU Running Club, feels better prepared this time around than he did at last year’s marathon. His workouts consist of five-to-eight-mile runs per day during the week and 13 or more miles during one day on the weekend. He takes the other day off. 

When he is not training on the Stankowski Field track, he runs a portion of the route of the Heart of America Marathon, a route considered “one of the most difficult in the United States.”

You can thank Joe Duncan for that.

Even though the 78-year-old did not create the historic race, he has organized it for what will be his 42nd year this Labor Day.  He plans to continue heading the annual event until he is no longer capable, but that day has not come yet.

“It wouldn’t be too hard to convince me to let someone else do it,” he said. “But I don’t think it is anyone out there who wants to take it over.”

Duncan keeps a 5-inch thick, maroon binder of every person who has ever competed in the marathon since 1960. Once the last runner crosses the finish line in a given year, he gets to work in updating the names and records in the binder, which takes about two to three months.

While Mankofsky’s story is strange, it is just one of many stories that Duncan has come across in all his years heading the marathon.

Rick Roeber, aka Barefoot Rick, has run the marathon seven times, five without any shoes or socks on. Roeber, 56, last competed in the marathon in 2009 at the age of 53.

Mary Ellen Bradshaw, 40, is the only woman in Heart of America history to improve her time over the first six years ever running in the marathon. She missed a seventh consecutive year of improvement in 2011 by less than two minutes.

The Hessler family has been involved with the event since the 1970s. Dick, 71, has run 11 times, competing for the last time in 1995 with his daughter Angela. Dick’s wife, Anne, has helped with providing food at the finish line. Their son Peter competed in 1981. Daughter Amy (Hessler) Gundy mans the water stations, while her husband, Gary, a state trooper, uses his patrol car to provide light in the early morning for runners before the sun comes out.

Once the sun hits, temperatures can rise to about 80 degrees around the 9:24 a.m. time that Mankofsky hopes to finish. While he is worried about staying hydrated with so much more clothing on, anything is better than the heat he has been training in this summer.

"I'd rather run in a suit in 80 degrees than run just normally — just running shorts and no shirt — than this weather," he said, alluding to the near-100 degree heat.

"It felt horrible."

The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri annually distributes over 28 million pounds of food to 135 agencies and 138 schools throughout 32 counties, according to its website.  Monetary donations can be made on the Food Bank website and food can be dropped off at 2101 Vandiver Drive, Columbia, MO 65202.


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