After moving to Rochester, Minn., a month ago, Patrick Steward returned to Columbia to pick up some boxes he had packed and to win the Heart of America marathon.
“It was completely unexpected and very humbling,” Steward said. “I did not line up going, ‘This one’s mine.’ It was a complete surprise.”
Steward finished in 2 hours, 46 minutes and 24 seconds Monday. This was his fourth Heart of America run. This year, he used the race as a training tool to help prepare him for the Chicago Marathon in October.
“This is a really good race to test your pacing and get a long fast run in because that’s hard to do when you’re training,” Steward said.
Steward led the race from the halfway point. By the time he reached Nifong Road, he had an eight-minute lead over the second-place runner, David Dobkowski, who finished in 2:58:29.
“If you keep the hills in mind, and save a little in reserve for them, you’re fine,” Steward said.
After preparing for heat and humidity, the rain Monday morning was a refreshing treat for the 120 runners who competed.
“It was awesome,” Jessica Ostrom said. “My sister and I trained for this in 90-degree weather, expecting it to be that hot today. This was wonderful.”
Said Steward: “It is a little demoralizing at the beginning just because it’s so miserable and dark. But once you get warmed up, it’s actually really, really nice.”
Ostrom, of Columbia, was the top female finisher, completing the 26.2-mile course in 3:36:55. This was her third marathon, and first Heart of America run. As the 27th overall finisher, she ran most of the way not knowing that she was the women’s leader.
“Somebody told me about 19 miles,” Ostrom said. “I knew I was near the front, but until then, I still thought there was one or two ahead of me.”
Ostrom and her younger sister, Nicole Hilgenberg, practiced on the course for weeks to prepare for the notorious hills.
“We thought we’d come out and run it in about four, 41/2 hours,” Ostrom said.
As she crossed the finish line, she was surprised to see that not only did she finish in less than four hours, but she ran her best marathon time by almost 16 minutes.
“I can’t believe it,” Ostrom said. “I thought it’d take a lot longer because the course is so hilly, so I was really surprised to see that.”