Heart of America Marathon
Labor Day heart2.gif (4940 bytes) Columbia, Missouri

1976 Report

A welcome break in the weather. 61 degrees at 6:00, humidity at 67%; 66 at 9:00, humidity 54, some cloud cover which increased as the race went on. The 17th edition of BOA was the best ever, both from the standpoint of number of participants and quality of the field. In 1974 there were 22 under three hours, this year, 29. In 1975 there were 78 finishers, this year, 121. There were 43 Columbians; in 1966 and 1967 there were only two - Darrell Palmer and Joe Duncan.

CTC was represented by 21 runners with six of them being under three hours; with Dick Hessler and Jon Herbert in the top seven and Rex Frazer being second, age 40+. Tony Rodiez was a stranger to these parts and while Rick Katz, Tim Hendricks and Hessler were watching each other and working their way through the field, the stranger stole the race equaling Barry Crawford's 1966 record. Even though Rodiez had completed only one previous marathon, he still sported some fahcy credentials from races in his part of the country. Running for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Track Club, Rodiez competed in many races over the summer, recording such as the following: 32:03 in a 10K, a 16:11 three mile, five in 27:42 and a 54:59 ten mile. John Miller, a running buddy of Rodiez, and Charlie Schmid had the early lead. After four miles or so Miller was alone and kept stretching it out until shortly after halfway. Miller's first half in 1:15:45 is the fastest first half ever, even including the half marathons we used to have in August preceding the marathon. It was at the Pierpoint Aid Station that Rodiez went by Miller and that was the race for first. Rick Katz came down from the Colorado mountains for a reunion with his old CTC running friends and posted the fifth fastest time ever and became the fourth best performer, with Crawford, Ron Daws and Rodiez being the only ones who have done better. Tim Hendricks' time was exactly the same as last year, when he won, while Dick Hessler had a time only two seconds slower. Lou Fritz had his usual late rush; he was ninth as late as 18 miles and didn't move into fifth until after 24 - and he posted a PB. Jon Herbert had his finest marathon with a second half eight minutes faster than the first, contrary to his usual tactic of going out fast, then fading. In fact, the first eight runners ran the second half faster than the first.


The following is from the Columbia Daily Tribune: By Tom Layton

Tony Rodiez' personal marathon was almost over when he started running yesterday morning, so he ran all 26.2 miles with the speed of a finishing kick.

Rodiez had run only one marathon in his life, that four years ago, before he entered the 17th annual Heart of America run when a friend suggested it would be exercise. He wasn't intent on winning. While most runners took Sunday as a day of rest, Rodiez participated in a five-mile run in Milwaukee, Wis., his hometown. Then he drove more than nine hours to Columbia. He had trouble finding a motel room, and when he found one he had trouble falling asleep. "I watched the Jerry Lewis telethon till 1:30," Rodiez said. Then he slept two hours, swallowed a doughnut and some orange juice, and reported to the starting line. He didn't really wake up until he was nine miles out and five minutes behind. "That was when I decided, 'I'm gonna win this race,'" he said later. Nobody could change his mind. He quickened his stride and caught the leaders after a two¬ mile chase. At Easley (12 miles out on the course) he took over second place; near the 18-mile mark he passed the leader. When he finished, his closest challenger still had more than four minutes to run.

Rodiez arrived at Seventh and Broadway in 2:34:07, tying the course record that Barry Crawford of Boulder, Col., had established back in 1966. "Somebody up the road told me that if I kept the pace I would have the record," he said, "and I felt I was well under it," so he accelerated only a little the final half-mile down Broadway.

"I could have sprinted if I had known it was close. I feel like I could run a couple of more miles right now."

Mark Cowley of the United States Air Force Academy, who ran with Rodiez to Easley and finished ninth in the race, was amazed. "He's one of those natural athletes that makes all us hard workers get mad."

Not that Rodiez isn't a hard worker. The 20-year-old runs about 50 races each summer. In the fall he runs cross-country for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Track Club. He was the state two-mile champion in high school in 1975.

But his only marathon experience was as a sophomore in high school, when he entered an event called the Mayfair Marathon. He ran for more than three and one-half hours to finish that one, and the longest event he had run since was 14 miles.

"I told my girl friend that I thought finishing in the top 30 would be good," Rodiez said. "I was shooting for a time under three hours."

Al together, 29 runners broke the three-hour barrier; the fastest behind Rodiez was Rick Katz of Boulder, Col., in 2:39:09. The expected battle between defending champion Tim Hendricks of Omaha, Neb.,and Columbia's Dick Hessler developed into a race for third, which Hendricks won with a 2:39:42 clocking that equaled his pace last year. Hessler was fourth in 2:39:45.

Seven-year-old Wesley Paul of Columbia finished 88th with a time of 4:04:08, two seconds ahead of his father, Ailo, and 43 minutes faster than the national record for seven-year¬olds. "That's good," Wesley reacted.

Rodiez and Paul and 132 other starters had to forfeit attention to John Miller the first half of the race, however.

Miller, of Oak Creek, Wis., trains with Rodiez but bypassed Sunday's race to rest and survey the Heart of America course. Before the sun was up (the race started in semi-darkness at 6 a.m.) he had the lead, and he reached the top of demanding Easley Hill, the halfway point, in just 1:15:45.

His path was blocked momentarily at the seven-mile mark by a stream of turkeys crossing the road. "But a horse came along and they kinda got out of the way," Miller related. "Dangdest thing I ever saw."

This was only Miller's second marathon, and he felt the inexperience in his legs as he completed 14 miles. "I thought I could shake it out," he said, "but I couldn't." Rodiez was within two minutes of Miller at the 15-mile checkpoint; he closed the gap to 20 yards over the next three miles.

"He went out too fast," judged Rodiez, who had put a half¬mile between himself and his running mate by the time he reached Rock Bridge State Park.

Hessler, a veteran in this marathon, expected the leader to fade at the 20-mile mark, near Rock Bridge Elementary School. "That's what often happens," he said. "It takes something special to go those last six miles. If they're going to come back to you, that's where they do it."

"When he didn't come back, I knew he was gonna do something fantastic."

Rodiez, 5-9 and 125 pounds, was notably strong on the six hills which are the major tests of the Heart of America course. "That's practice," he said. "In high school I never could run hills."

"But the only really bad hill for me was that one (at Easley). And at the top of that hill 1 kinda got my second wind, and when 1 saw the guy out front 1 really got tc feeling good."

Rodiez ran splits of 1:18:45 and 1:15:22. Miller, correspondingly, ran the final 13.1 miles in 1:39:39 and fell all the way to 21st place.

Cowley said he and Rodiez ran the first 10 miles of the race together, "and 1 was pretty sure we were gonna finish together. We were having a good ole time down by the river, until he just took off."

When Cowley tried to keep pace with Rodiez on the 240-foot climb just beyond Easley, he overextended himself and lost ground the final 13 miles. Hessler topped the same hill hoping to gain ground on his old rival, Hendricks, but he soon developed cramps and was unable to hold third.

Hendricks, a five-time champion who has never finished worse than fifth in 10 starts here, said "1 guess Dick and I watched each other too much and forgot about the other guy.

Larry Corbin of Barnhart improved his time 21.8 per cent over last year, finshing 53rd with a time of 3:29:35 and won the Dave Schulte Award for Improved Performance.

Eleven-year-old Gabrielle Warrington of Kansas City ran a 4:53:04, placing 106th. She had the best time of the three female entrants.

From the "Columbia Daily Tribune" September 7, 1976