FROM READERS: Heart of America Marathon race report

Tuesday, September 18, 2012 | 10:00 a.m. CDT

Joe Duncan is the race director of Columbia's Heart of America Marathon. The 53rd annual Heart of America Marathon was held on Sept. 3, 2012. This race report was first published on the website of the Columbia Track Club.

Highlights: Justin Gillette wins his second in a row. Columbia Track Club's Whitney Dreier wins her first. 212 people finish the race on a hot, humid, cloudless day.

Last year we opened the report by discussing how cool the conditions were in comparison to previous Labor Day Heart of Americas. In 2012 it is fitting for us to go to the other extreme — a hot, humid, brutal day. 69 at the start, 97% humidity, up to 78 and 85% by 10:00 am with bright sun and very little wind throughout.

Heart of America is touted in marathon circles for its challenging course coupled with heat and humidity. The hills are a constant, however the heat and humidity are ever-changing, ranging from the extreme of 2011 to that of 2012, which was one of the most brutal, the worst since 2008. Yes, the heat and humidity are in the forefront of any discussion of Heart of America. But '12 was one of only eleven we consider "brutal" because of heat, humidity and a bright sun.

Of the 45 Labor Day Heart of Americas, (eight were contested on cool October days in the 80s) only some 25% have been "brutal." Only 19, (40%) have had full sun. So, maybe Heart of America isn't so bad after all — only the hills.

JUSTIN GILLETTE, back from Goshen, IN, defended his '11 title by duplicating that feat, establishing a big lead in the first mile, leading JOE LYONS, St. Louis, in his first Heart of America by 1:34 at three miles, 18:08 to 19:42. Gillette gradually pulled farther ahead gaining a 4:23 margin by 12 miles, then Lyons began cutting into that gap a little getting within 3:15 at 24, but could gain no more.

Columbia Track Club's TOM MAY, in his sixth Heart of America, and CHRIS WOLF, Chicago, were both 20:25 at three and AARON NORMAN, Oak Grove, MO, 2nd Heart of America, was 25 seconds behind those two. May and Wolf were together approaching 18 miles, but May moved to 18 seconds ahead of Wolf at the 18-mile mark. Norman caught Wolf shortly after the 24-mile mark. These two battled to the finish with Norman edging across the finish line a mere three seconds in front of Wolf. 

PAUL CHICOINEAU, St. Louis, also 2nd Heart of America, was ranging behind those five, pretty much by himself. Four of these six ran last year; Gillette was twelve minutes slower, Chicoineau six, while Norman was a couple of minutes faster and May a minute faster. May now has three 3:02s and a 3:03 in his ongoing persistence to get an elusive sub-3:00. None of the six had negative splits, although Norman was close with 1:33:10 and 1:33:17. CHRIS COOK, the 2006 winner, running in his 16th Heart of America, was in that top-six mix a couple of times, but he eventually settled into a solid 7th place for Columbia Track Club. 

In the women's race, Columbia Track Club's WHITNEY DREIER, like Gillette, was out in front from the start. However, she had a companion, MEGAN STROUT, St. Louis, who stayed with her for the first seven miles, before Dreier pulled away going up the tough 8-mile hill. Strout fell some two minutes behind and was passed by 46-year-old STACEY SLOVER, Kansas City, at about 12 miles. Strout finally settled into fourth, GRACE CHILES, 41, Columbia, having gone by her near Pierpont, 18 miles.

In the meantime Slover was running second a couple of minutes behind Dreier. That two-minute gap existed through 19 miles and became 4:10 when Dreier came by Rock Bridge Park somewhat faster than did Slover, up the 20-mile hill. By 24 miles Dreier was up by 6:09, but Slover mounted a charge, cutting that margin in half over the final 2, 3:85 run in a swift 16:10, finishing 3:06 behind first. Chiles, once she got into third, stayed there, unchallenged, to the 7th & Broadway finish.

When Strout fell back she was joined by CHRISTI IMGARTEN and CHRISTINA RAMIREZ, both of Columbia. Those three raced over the final 2, 385 to their respective finishes — 4th, 5th,6th. Chiles, Imgarten and Ramirez all had negative splits, each of them in their first HOA, knowing the need to go out conservatively. This was Dreier's third HOA. She had a 3:23:07 in the 2009 50th Annual and a leisurely 3:48:16 when she came in from New Mexico for HOA last year. Slover set an age 46 record, lowering the 3:49:14 of Patti Minton in 2003. Dreier was close to the age 28 mark of 3:27:56 belonging to Marie Onan, St. Louis, set in 2004. The age 29 record of 3:07:17 came in 1981 from Wendy Thomas, Evansville, IN, so Whitney has one more long hill to climb in 2013. 

DAVE DOBKOWSKI ran his 26th HOA, a record, one more than the 25 consecutive HOAs run by Lou Fritz out of Verdon, NE., from 1965 through 1989. Dave's average time for those 26 is a fine 3:08:40. He was under 3:00 16 times with a PB 2:45:17 in 1997. He won HOA four times, '90,'94,'95 and '97, and took four age 40-49 titles. Will he continue the string? He will only be age 55 in 2013, so, why not? 

MARY ELLEN BRADSHAW ran her eighth consecutive HOA. No other woman has run as many as six except Janice Edler Minner from Alton, Ill. Her six were not consecutive.

This was the first HOA for LUIS (5:00:38) and KATHY OCCENA (4:38:45).

STEVE BOURGEOIS won the Dave Schulte Award for Improved Performance. Last year he was in at 4:32:26. He lowered that time to 3:54:29, a 16.2% improvement. Bourgeois actually has a PB of 3:08:01 from 1999. However, with our change in the criteria for winning the Schulte Award to consider only the previous year's performance, Steve became a clear winner. In fact, he previously won the Schulte Award, with the old format, with that PB in '99 when he had an 11.5% improvement. Thus, he becomes the only two-time winner of the Schulte Award. He has now run HOA fifteen times.

There were three age records set, other that Slover's, all female, and all age 60+: age 64, RAE MOHRMANN, St. Louis, 4:32:27 shattering the 5:35:09 by Peggy Trager, Eden Prairie, MN set in 2010; age 65, MARIAN LOFTIN, Mobile, AL, 4:49:17, way under Boonville, MO's Donna Haun's mark of 5:38:03 also set in 2010; and age 68, MARION LANDRY, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 6:26:25, where none existed before. Landry, a 50-stater, has run 257 marathons. Her husband, DON LANDRY, finished ten minutes ahead of her, but he did not get a record. He has run 273 marathons.

There were 212 finishers, the third most ever. Of the 249 entrants, 26 failed to pick up packets which means there were 223 starters, leaving an attrition rate of only 5% — excellent, especially considering the conditions. There 146 male, 66 female (31%). Twenty-eight of the female runners were age 40+, 80 males 40+. The median time was 4:35:13, the highest ever. It was 4:29+ in '02 and '08. Many runners have the attitude, "I might as well finish this thing because I am never going to do it again." But a surprising number do come back, many saying, "this is my favorite marathon."

In order to keep it everyone's (at least some "ones") favorite we will continue to rely on the magnificent support and work of our volunteers.

For 2012, for Packet Pickup there were Nancy Rezebek, Mary Ellen Bradshaw, Joyce Schulte, Randy Gay, Mark Lee, Summer Allen, Karen Hodges, Steve Thompson, Richard & Leona Nistendirkc. 

Timer/Recorders: Tom Allen, Nancy Rezebek, Doug & Maria Duncan, Tony & Nancy Taube, David Lang, Diane Kidwell, Norman Cox, Andrew Grabau, Mark Lee & Mary de la Guerra, Don Waltman & two MU Running Club members. 

Aid Stations: Hickman HS XC: Ethan Zars, leader; Mayor's Council on Physical Fitness, Marin Blevins; Beth Lewis & Friends; MU Running Club, Andrew O'Connor; Rock Bridge HS XC, Maggard family, Harrington family, Amy Gundy; Body Combat Chics, Emily Nusbaum; Columbia Independent School, Holly Bondurant

Course Monitors: Linda LaFontaine, Bill Stolz, Barney Sword, Wayne Savage, David Mellitt, Spencer Brocksmith, Joyce Schulte, Randy Gay, Nancy Rezebek. 

Finish Area: Tim Cornell, Tom & Andrea Allen, Simon Rose, Summer Allen, Ben Londeree, Marie Kerl, Joe & Amy Company, Nancy Fritsch, Nancy Burke, Jim Crosby, Kevin Tyler, Bill & Hollis Stolz, Katherine Barrett, Sarah Moore, Pamela Bross, Jill Murphey, MD, Mike Bryant, EMT. 

On the course: Tom LaFontaine, Norm Stebbins, Newell Kitchen ice & water tanks, Scott Foster, lead bicyclist, Steve Kullman, Aid Station Monitor; Shuttle Service, Cami Ronchetto. And many, many unknowns.


This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising Editor Joy Mayer.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.