Runners finish Columbia marathon despite rain, lightning

Monday, September 1, 2014 | 8:06 p.m. CDT; updated 6:47 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, September 2, 2014
More than 200 marathoners raced through Columbia in the 55th annual Heart of America Marathon on Monday.

COLUMBIA — Overcast conditions delayed but didn't stop Monday morning's 55th annual Heart of America Marathon.

Runners lined up at the starting line near the Hearnes Center at 7 a.m., an hour behind schedule. The 26.2-mile course snaked down Providence Road, onto Route K, through the MKT trail near the Missouri River, back up Route N and Providence Road, along College Avenue and eventually wound up on a crowd-lined Broadway. The winner, Andrew Danner, finished in 2 hours and 45 minutes.

It's a hilly route; many runners said the hardest parts were the sprawling slopes such as Easley Hill and Providence Road.

“It’s known as one of the most difficult courses,” said Beth Luebbering, president of the Columbia Track Club and one of the race's coordinators.

Everything went more smoothly than Luebbering hoped — in fact, she wasn't even sure if there would be a race when she rolled out of bed that morning. The view out her window didn't look good, and the forecast wasn't much better.

But the sky cleared, and the rain only made the course stronger, she said. Dusty areas were washed clean, and mud didn't prove to be a problem.

The marathon route hasn't changed much over 55 years, she said. “I think they have done some tweaking around the trail, but for the most part it’s stayed about the same."

Monday was Mary Ellen Bradshaw’s 10th straight Heart of America Marathon, a feat she said no other female racer has accomplished. She said she’s starting to feel like each incline and curve is ingrained in her memory.

“This is my favorite race of any I’ve done,” she said. “It’s a small race and I know everybody at every stop. That’s fun.”

Supervising editor is Adam Aton.

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