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

2001 Narrative

The weather: 67 degrees at the start, 90% humidity, 50% cloud cover with a slight wind from the south. It gradually warmed throughout the morning with the humidity diminishing somewhat and the sun becoming more evident at about three hours into the race so that by five hours it was 83, 65% humidity, 30%, cloud cover and light winds from the west. All this made for pretty tough conditions for most of the field since most of the runners were over four hours. This was another example of the "recreational" marathons, we have seen in recent years. The four and five-hour marathoners constituted well over half the field. The median time this year was 4:25:23--the highest previous median time was 4:09:16 back in 1998.

25 years ago, in 1976, it was assumed that the winner of HOA would be one of a trio of, runhers, namely, Rick Katz, Dick Hessler or Tim Hendricks. However, a stranger came out of the north, from Wisconsin, in fact, and stole the, victory from those favorites. While they were watching each other, Tony Rodiez, the stranger, slipped away in the dark and was never caught. So it was 25 years later in 2001. It was assumed that the winner of this year's event would be either Dave Dobkowski or Tom Nichols even though both of them were over age 40 and never before had a 40+ runner won an HOA. No one else seemed to have the credentials these two previous winners had (Dabkowski being a four-time winner and Nichols a two-time winner). However, once again, from out of the north from Wisconsin, in fact, came a stranger. This time it was Scott Kent a 34-year-old Fed-Ex employee who slipped away in the dark and stole the race, leading all the way. Had we been paying attention we would have known that Kent had the "credentials." He is a veteran marathoner with a PB of 2:29 and as recently as May in Lincoln, Nebraska he had run a 2:42. Kent knows Tony Rodiez and had recently discussed HOA with him--something about how to steal a race.

Dobkowski, Nichols and Fulton's Gerald Holtmeyer, all 40+, did battle for second and all three got under three hours. No one else, other than Kent, got under that three-hour barrier unlike '76 when 29 runners were under 3 :00. In that epic '76 tussle, Katz, Hendricks and Hessler were all at 2:38 and 2:39, but were still some four minutes behind Rodiez. In '01, second, third and fourth were well delineated with Dobkowski ranging a minute or two behind Nichols until the Providence Road stretch between 22 and 23 miles when Dobkowski went ahead. All this time Holtmeyer was pushing toward these two but could never quite get there.

For the women, Michelle Schuster, a student at MU led all the way. At times she was as much as twelve minutes ahead of Carrie Besselman, but over the final five miles, Besselman closed rapidly and was only 49 seconds in arrears at the finish. In holding her pace Besselman also went by Nancy Halferty and Chris Kensinger who had been giving chase to Schuster.

There were 154 finishers, tied for third for the most ever. Only '78 (178) and'79 (156) had more. There were 48 repeaters, but only eleven of them improved over their previous best HOA led by Rick Roeber with an eighteen minute improvement (12.5%) over his 2000 performance, and that got him the Dave Schulte Award for improved performance.

A highlight of the 2001 HOA was the presence of Hal Higdon, Senior Writer for Runner's World and the winner of HOA in 1968. In'68 Higdon was a kid, age 37. He's back in '01 as a 70-year-old and he is celebrating his 70 years by running 7 marathons in 7 months. He calls this effort his 7/7/70 program and is using it as a fund-raiser for various charities. It is an obvious choice that the designated charity for the Heart of America Marathon is the American Heart Association. HOA is Higdon's third marathon in his set of seven. His idea is to run these events in about 5+ hours, hoping to run each successive run a little faster than the previous one. He ran Grandma's Marathon in June in 5:58:30 and ran the World Veteran's Championship in 5:44:54. Higdon struggled in HOA--the heat, hills and humidity. He did not remember the course as being so tough in 1968. No doubt being out on the course for six hours is much more difficult than being out there for only two hours forty minutes. At about 20 miles Higdon had to sit and rest a little and he had doubts about finishing. But his daughter's friend coaxed him on. In any event he was determined to finish--after all that was the reason he came. He was in last place and was thinking how neat it would be to finish first in an HOA and also last. No one has ever done that. Alas, Higdon passed Jack Hudson at about 25 miles and had to settle for the anonymity of second-to-last.

For his efforts, Higdon raised almost $1,000 for the American Heart Association. WELL DONE, HAL!


Dave Dobkowski, running in his 100th marathon, set an age 43 record beating the 2:55:01 Joe Marks had in 1980. Don Johnson's age 55 record of 3:27:17 from 1983 fell to Ronnie Wilson; Carrie Besselman lowered Mary Ann Slivinsky's 1980 mark of 4:07:49 for age 39, female, while Franceska Drozdz, Jeanne Bocci and Hazel Matthews set marks for ages 57, 58 and 52, respectively where none existed before.