COLUMBIA — With the sun still yet to rise Monday morning, more than 200 runners lined up in front of the Hearnes Center to run in the 54th annual Heart of America Marathon.
Among the runners was Australian Trent Morrow, also known as the "Marathon Man." Donning a blue jumpsuit and red cape, Morrow joined the race for 26.2 miles of hills and humidity.
Morrow is trying to break the world record for running the most marathons in a single year. The current record is 114 marathons, according to Guinness World Records, but an unverified claim was made in 2012 that a man ran 157 marathons in a year. Morrow plans to run at least 160 by the end of the year. The Heart of America Marathon was Morrow's 99th race of the year, and he said it was one of the hardest he has run in the United States.
"I'm really pleased to have been able to come up to Missouri," Morrow said. "It was a perfect day weather-wise, but I didn't realize how tough the course was. The rolling hills and the number of them is certainly not what I expected today."
Morrow was the 199th runner to finish with a time of five hours, 10 minutes, 17 seconds.
"It's always great when you cross that finish line, and there was a lot of great people out there that I was running with," Morrow said. "A lot of fantastic volunteers, beautiful weather and it was just spectacular to get this far in the journey. And to complete No.99 is brilliant."
Monday marked the third marathon Morrow had run over Labor Day weekend. Between running in the Minocqua No Frills Marathon in Tomahawk, Wis., on Sunday and driving through the night to Columbia, Morrow only slept two hours before running Monday.
"Probably not the ideal preparation for running today, but still to finish that course, which I'll say is one of the toughest I've run so far, I'm pretty pleased to have done just over five hours," Morrow said.
Morrow leaves for Los Angeles on Tuesday for rest and relaxation. He is scheduled to compete in his 100th marathon of the year in Ohio next week.
Monday's men's winner was Austin Jacobs of Springfield with a time of 2:39:37. This was his first time running in the Heart of America race, and his time was good enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon in April.
"It feels good," Jacobs said. "I'm really proud of my time because I'm trying to qualify for Boston."
Molly McMahon, of Indianapolis, was the first woman to cross the finish line at 3:21:24. She also qualified for Boston.
"I was expecting to get a time for the Boston qualifier," McMahon said. "It's a huge, huge thing to qualify, and that's what any runner aims for."