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


A record number of finishers, by 100, crosses the finish line in the 50th Annual Heart of America Marathon led by RYAN HAUSER and ANDREA FISCHER

September 7, 2009

The big story for the 50th annual running of the Heart of America Marathon was the record number of finishers, 278, exceeding by 100 the 178 runners who finished in 1978.

Note that there were 100 women in 2009; that means that the record number of finishers is due, almost exclusively, to the women, since in that 1978 record there were only five female finishers. The previous record for female finishers was 32 in 2002, so that record was bettered by 68 whereas the male record of 173 was exceeded by only five.

A comparison between the 1978 event and that of 2009 gives considerable insight as to the evolution of HOA, and all marathons throughout the country for that matter, from an event attracting mostly well-trained young, male runners to a “peoples” marathon. That is not to say we “people” are not well-trained, but we run our marathons in four, five or six hours. Further the marathons of today have many more women and age-40 plus participants.

Consider the following comparisons:
Number of finishers 178 278
Female finishers 5 (3%) 100 (36%)
Age 40+ finishers, male & female 32 all male (17%) 154 (55%)
40-49 male 24 (13%) 58 (21%)
50+ male 8 (4%) 64 (23%)
40+ female 0 32 (11%)
Number under 3:00 21 (12%) 4 (1.4%)
Number over 5:00 13 (7%) 53 (19%)
Median time 3:44:30 4:17:13
Weather 60s-70s, sun, humid 60s, cloudy, humid
Note especially that over half the finishers in 2009 were 40 years old or older and that more than one third of the field were women. The median time was almost 33 minutes slower than in ‘78 and the quality of the field was not even close to ‘78 when the winning time was 2:33:44. The significant point of all this is that marathons and running in general are for everyone willing to do the work. Where else can ordinary folk participate in the same events as the elite--not in football & other team sports, not in tennis, golf, NASCAR, etc.

THE WEATHER: It was great other than the high humidity which may have had an effect on most performances. It was 64 degrees at the 6:00 a.m. start and didn’t reach 70 until five hours into the race. However, we had 96 % humidity at six; it didn’t get below 90 % until that five hour mark. There was 100% cloud cover throughout the morning, so that helped.

THE RACE: RYAN HAUSER, 28, the newcomer, and DANN FISHER, 46, the veteran, ran together the entire race until the last couple of blocks going toward the finish when the kid pulled away from the veteran to win by a slim nine-second margin. Hauser, an assistant manager at Menard’s, having come here from Illinois back in February, was in his first marathon ever, his only long runs being two half-marathons, while Fisher was running his 59th marathon, his 8th HOA. Fisher ran his first HOA in 1981 at age 18. In that first HOA Fisher ran 2:49:10, but was never under 3:00 in his other six HOAs prior to 2009.

Hauser and Fisher’s three-mile segments went like this: c. 20:00, c. 20:00, 19:42, 18:49, 20:39 (Easley Hill), 19:20, 19:57, 19:53 and 14:44 (14:53 for Fisher) over the final 2 miles, 385 yards. The halfway split for both was 1:26:30 so Hauser had a 1:26:35 second half and Fisher 1:26:44. Hauser’s nine-second margin of victory was the closest finish ever other than the same nine second margin in 1985 when Dusty Morris took the measure of Dave Dobkowski. Fisher, however, got another sub-3:00, setting an age 46 record to go with his age 18 record set 28 years ago. No one else is even close to having a gap of that magnitude between age records. Fisher’s mark lowers the 2:56:04 Joe Marks had in 1983, but Marks still has the age 45 record of 2:52:09, 1982

PETE DOLL, in his HOA debut, ranged from one to two minutes behind the two leaders until the final two miles when Hauser and Fisher picked up the pace in their race to the finish. Doll had fairly even splits with 1:27:06 and 1:29:21. TIM LANGEN, our banquet fiddler, showed he had plenty of energy left for his marathon debut. He stayed with Doll for 15 miles before gradually falling back to a 1:54 deficit at the end. ANDY EMERSON made another determined bid for a sub-3:00 HOA in his sixth try. He was only 23 seconds off, but still a PB by almost four minutes. 2010 will be the year. Andy ran a 1:30:02 first half and 1:30:21 second. In his bid for the sub-3:00 he sped the final 2, 385 in 14:53, as fast as anyone save Hauser who was only nine seconds faster.

The women’s race was similar to the men’s race in that the first place finisher, ANDREA FISCHER, 45, had a narrow margin of victory over the second place finisher, DESTINY THOMAS, 32, last year’s female winner. However, Fischer and Thomas did not run together as did Hauser and Fisher. Further, in this race the first-place finisher was the veteran while the second-placer was the youngster. Fischer established a sizable lead early on, being up by over a minute at three miles and increasing that lead to almost six minutes at 21 miles. Fischer’s lack of training began to show when the next three miles took her 26:50 while Thomas sped that distance in 22:47 leaving her with only a 1:34 deficit at 24 miles. Fischer covered the final 2, 385 in 18:06, Thomas in 16:58, leaving the latter 26 seconds behind first place. No doubt Andrea was happy the finish line was at 7th St. rather than the old 3rd St., now Providence Rd. That 26-second margin of victory was the second closest finish ever for females, the 25th Annual HOA, 1984 23-second margin Debbie Hoxworth had over Chris Ruble being the closest ever.

Fischer set an age 45 record, her 3:18:12 shattering the 4:07:47 set by Diana Bibeau, of Hermitage, TN, who was in this year’s race. Andrea also has the age 32 and 33 records, 2:54:10 and 2:54:48, so there is a 12-year gap between her records. Furthermore, Andrea has the fastest time of any 40+ female, ahead of Becky Lowrance who has the next three 40+ best times, and hers are at ages 47, 48, and 49.

Thomas’ time was some 20 minutes better than her 2008 winning time in her first HOA. Her half-splits were pretty even: 1:38:39 and 1:39:59. Her time was the second fastest second-place time ever and was good enough to win all but eight of the previous HOAs, female.

19-year-old KYLA BERENDZEN, third place, female, ranged along in fifth and sixth place most of the way until about 24 miles when she moved into fourth, then covered the last 2 & 385 in a scintillating 15:45, faster than any other woman and faster than most of the men. She had negative splits: 1:43:24 and 1:38:22--five minutes faster over the second half. This is the all-time fastest time for a third placer female. Further, her 3:21:46 is an age 19 record, 30:05 better than the 3:51:51 set by Diane Busenbark in 1980.

WHITNEY SPIVEY, fourth female, had the fastest time ever for a fourth place in her HOA debut. She ran along in fourth place until moving into third at about 16 miles, but falling back to fourth when Berendzen unleashed her kick in the final two miles.

Continuing a trend, NANCY TAUBE, at age 49, had the fastest fifth place time ever in her first ever marathon. Her age 49 time is second only to the age 49 record 3:21:32 (2006) belonging to Branson’s Becky Lowrance. As is usual with a marathon debut, especially at HOA with the cool morning and the relatively easy first 12 miles, Taube’s first 12 miles at a 7:20 pace took its toll, but she still came in under 3:30--a great debut!

Alluding to the quality of the field, it is apparent in noting all those fastest ever places, (all the 20 places after first), under 4:00, that the female field was the highest quality ever. In 1982 and 2006, there only eight female finishers under 4:00 each year. Of course, we had a much greater number of female finishers in 2009, but they were much faster than their predecessors.


PHIL SCHAEFER set an age 56 record, his 3:22:38 being 68 seconds better than Ozark’s Ronnie Wilson’s 3:23:46 of 2002.

MARY FLAWS, wife of Running in the USA’s Bill Flaws, who was in attendance, set a new standard for age 42 female, her 3:32:24 going under the 3:54:44 of Gerardette Groll, St. Louis, set in 1995.

DEBE JAJKO of Jefferson City set an age 54 record of 3:52:51, to go with her age 53 record of 3:57:31, lowering the 2007 4:38:56 mark of Kay McVey of St. Peters.

SARAH GROSSE, Columbia, 21, set a record for that age, 4:09:17, compared to the 4:12:04 by Mary Elsea, also Columbia, set in 1983.

There were three 60+ female finishers. Heretofore, there had been only one, 63-year-old Barbara Kilburn, Pittsburg, TX back in 2007. MARSHA WHITE, Gainesville, FL, filled the vacant age 62 record spot with her 5:47:21 mark while 72!!-year-old CAROLYN MITCHELL, Lenexa, KS, filled the age 72 spot. 63-year-old CATHY TROISI, Cohoes, NY could not challenge the Kilburn record.

OTHER NOTES: DAVID DOBKOWSKI finished his 23rd HOA posting an easy 3:38:05. BILL STOLZ had an HOA PB; his 3:11:05 was some 22 minutes better than his HOA debut in 2005. MARY ELLEN BRADSHAW, who did such a great job with the banquet decorations, finished her fifth consecutive HOA. She has grabbed a PB each of those five times and is headed to a sub-4:00 in 2010. Only one other woman has more than five HOAs, Janice Edler of Cottage Hills, IL, and they were not consecutive.

BOONSOM HARTMAN, Oak Forest, IL, was a great crowd-pleaser with her effervescent personality and approach to running marathons. HOA was her 200th. She is known in marathon circles as the “Lipstick Lady.” See the June, 2004 edition of Runner’s World and the Jan/Feb 2005 Marathon and Beyond. She never crosses the finish line of a marathon looking as if she has run a marathon. Rather she has a colorful bow in her hair, colorful sunglasses and fresh lipstick she applies while pausing momentarily at the 25-mile mark. She approaches the finish smiling broadly, waving and planting a kiss on her husband’s cheek just before crossing. She is an expert on lipstick; able to tell what brand and kind holds up best during a marathon or any other time.

TOM DETORE, Lenexa, KS, won the Dave Schulte Award for Improved Performance running a 4:19:49, 52:34 (17%) better than his time in 2008. Tom, 61, has now run 296 marathons, five HOAs.

THE PRE-RACE BANQUET: Some 180 people attended the banquet. It was a magical evening. The food was great, and the program was short even though we had some fifteen speakers, including the main speaker, Hal Higdon. Each of the previous winners in attendance (Joe Schroeder, Hal Higdon, Tim Hendricks, Dennis Hinkamp, Liz Bulman, Steve Stonecipher-Fisher, Dave Dobkowski, Andrea Fischer, Betty Bohon, Chris Ruble, Patrick Hanson, Chris Cook) all spoke for 2-3 minutes as did Lou Fritz, a 25-time consecutive HOA finisher, Richard Carr, the first Schulte Award winner, Larry Young, who created the first and 2009 Schulte Awards, and Joyce Schulte, Dave Schulte’s widow. All these speakers had fascinating tales to tell of their HOA experiences, and Bill Clark was a great MC. A special thank you to Tim Langen for his fine fiddle background music. His playing was a special treat.

THE VOLUNTEERS: We all know we would not have a Heart of America Marathon without the volunteers. So it was in 2009--a record number of finishers and a record number of volunteers, more than 100 of them and we say THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! to all of them. A year ago we began our planning for the 50th. Under the leadership of President Linda LaFontaine, our two committees, the Promotion and Awards Committee (Summer Allen, Chairperson) and the Banquet Committee (Don Johnson, Chairperson) with ex-officio members Linda LaFontaine, Tom Allen and Mike Denehy, guided us to an unqualified successful celebration of this 50th Annual HOA.

We say “Thank You” to all the sponsors as listed on the banquet program and in the race packets; to the Aid Station personnel: the Hickman HS XC team (Steve Kissane), Columbia Independent School XC (Holly Bondurant), Steve Kullman for his co-ordination efforts; to all the CTC timers, course monitors, and finish area helpers; to the recruitment activities of Marie Kerl, MU Vet School, and Jaclyn Heider, Mayor’s Council on Physical Fitness; to Brad and Kim Earnest who took charge of the water tanks so Newell Kitchen could get an age 50 shirt for running the 50th Annual HOA. (Eleven other finishers also got such a shirt); to our medical personnel Dr. Jill Murphey, a two-time HOA finisher, Mike Bryant and Norm Stebbins and to all the others not fitting into any of the above categories. KUDOS to all!