AFTER A DELAY OF ONE HOUR DUE TO LIGHTNING, ANDREW DANNER AND NIKI HILGENBERG, HEAD OFF TO VICTORY IN THE 55th ANNUAL HEART OF AMERICA MARATHON LEADING 177 OTHER RUNNERS IN THE SMALLEST FIELD SINCE 2008
September 1, 2014
Fear no more the lightning flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone Shakespeare Cymbeline, iv, ii, 258
The Heart of America Marathon, is usually, properly so, focused on the runners. Occasionally, an event occurs which affects or mars HOA: heat, excess humidity, cold (a favorable event), rain, floods, a train passing by, irate (or even friendly) dogs or people, in or out of cars. At 5:45, Labor Day morning, the 55th Annual HOA, with Thor firing off dangerous bolts no insulator could ever hope to conquer, was in jeopardy. Finally, at 6:30, the Midgard Serpent arrived and Thor was no more.
The Question: The Saturday before Race Day it was apparent we would have thunderstorms coinciding with the start. So, the question: What are we going to do about that?
The Decision: We had no severe weather policy, so we decided to develop one. We did. Beth created a Group Text which quickly enrolled, perhaps, 25 or so members. We created our Severe Weather Policy which is simply “Communicate, Decide, Communicate.” Race Day around 5:45 am we knew we could not start at 6:00. Heavy rain was ok, but not ferocious lightning. We told the gathered crowd of anxious runners at Hampton Inn that we had a tentative start time of 6:30. We kept checking with the Channel 8 weather man and the weather radar on TV. “Heavy rain until 8:00.” But what about lightning? The man couldn’t tell us. We scrapped the 6:30 start and went to 7:00. Groans. Tim Cornell came in at 6:25. He had been at the start, placing the chip mats. “Is there still lightning out there.” “There hasn’t been any for an hour,” he replied. That was all we needed.
The Announcement: “We are going at 7:00!” Cheers. The Severe Weather Policy had its first test and it worked. Fortunately all the lightning occurred before and at the scheduled start time so the process was easy. Halfway through the race it would have been more difficult. For 54 years we had no policy. Only eight of those years had any rain--a mighty .41” in 1962 and only light rain the other occasions. Our Severe Weather Policy is now in place for the future. After all, that titanic struggle between Thor and the Serpent has never ceased. Just a few hours after the HOA finish, some five inches of rain were dumped on Boone County by a thunderous storm. Thor had come back with a vengeance.
The Start: The gun was fired at 7:00. With that the 55th Annual Heart of America Marathon was off and running into history, and before nightfall, thanks to Webmaster, Hugh Emerson, into the HOA archives, that repository of ancient HOA lore. It was, because of the rain, cool at the start, 66 degrees, and remained cool until the sun (that would be Helios) popped out at about three hours into the race.
THE RACE, Men: NATE GUTHALS, Roeland Park, KS, in his first marathon, and ANDREW DANNER, a first-time HOA starter, from Louisville, KY, quickly separated from the 188 starters, with Guthals taking a quick lead of some 100 yards within the first mile, while Danner was another 100 yards ahead of ROY WEDGE, his first HOA, Lawrence, KS and AARON NORMAN, Oak Grove, MO, who finished 7th last year. JOHN VENNER, Kirksville, 8th last year, was another 100 yards back, then came 45-year-old ANDY EMERSON, CTC, in his 11th consecutive HOA, 10th place in ’13, running with 48-year-old TOM MAY, also CTC in his 8th HOA, 9th place in ‘13, JASON RAZO, his first HOA, Columbia, and LOC HONG, Clinton, MO, who finished 25th in ’13 with JEFF WILLIAMS, Independence, MO, 20th in ’13, running 10th in that string of runners.
The runners were in that order as they went by the 3-mile location, with Guthals at 19:00, Danner 19:38 with the others stringing out to the 22:42 of Williams. At 6 miles Guthals, 37:49, was up by :53 over Danner while Norman and Wedge had swapped positions with Norman’s 20:30, :20 ahead of Wedge. Venner was 41:18, May 42:19, Razo and Hong had switched, Hong now at 42:24 and Razo :20 later. 9th and 10th didn’t change: Emerson 42:46, Williams 43:54.
At 9 miles the first six did not change: Guthals at 56:54, Danner 57:46, Norman, Wedge, Venner within a 40 second block, 1:00:42, 1:01:08, 1:01:22. Hong, 1:03:31, was still in front of Razo, now by :35. Emerson and Williams had also switched, Williams 1:04:40 and Emerson now 1:01 behind him in tenth.
At halfway, the top of Mt. Easley, Guthals 1:22:50 was 1:25 ahead of Danner. Venner had moved into 3rd from his 5th place at nine miles, just a step ahead of Norman. Wedge had dropped to 5th, 1:30:05. May was still 6th, 1:32:30, ten seconds ahead of Williams, who had moved from 9th to 7th, and was now another ten seconds ahead of Hong, now 8th. Razo was 9th, 1:33:25 with Emerson cruising along with a halfway split of 1:36:10.
The run from halfway to 15 miles went with no change in positions except for Williams picking up the ten seconds he had been behind May. Williams moved on by May and by 18 had put May, now 7th, 1:41 back. At 18 Guthals was now 1:32 over Danner, Venner was solidly in 3rd, 2:00:55, :58 in front of Norman, Wedge was still 5th, Razo, Hong, and Emerson 8, 9 &10.
Coming around the corner from 163 onto Providence Rd., Danner could see Guthals fading so that at mile 21 Danner was only 14 seconds (2:12:40 to 2:12:54) from taking over first, which he quickly did. All other positions were the same as at 15, except for May dropping another place, this time to Razo.
We have no 24-miles splits, but we do know Danner sped the final 5 miles, 385 yards in 32:43, to cross the finish line first. Venner did that 5-385 in 32:50 to take 2nd over Guthals, who had suffered severe cramps while gutting out those last few miles. Wedge stormed by Norman to take 4th, leaving Norman in 5t h, but still with a sub-3:00, as he had last year. After being 10th at six miles, Williams gradually moved up, finishing 6th a scant :44 over the coveted sub-3:00, but almost 17 minutes better than 2013. Razo checked in at 7th, then came Emerson and May. As Emerson came around the corner from Stadium onto College he saw May walking ahead of him and eventually passed May on College Ave., about one half mile from the finish. May simply had a bad day. Most likely (he didn’t say so) his performance was adversely affected ty the one hour delay with the start. Probably that was true with most of the better runners who plan with such precision their preparation for a 6:00 am start. Tom did say, normally, he would have dropped out at some point. However, he knew his daughter, Madison, was following him around the course and he didn’t want to disappoint her. Madison had suffered a broken fibula back in the spring and had missed the Rock Bridge Track and Field season. Tom respected that; reflecting on her determination during the recovery process, inspired by her “never give up” attitude, and following the example she had set, he pushed on to a ninth place finish.
Hong grabbed the 10th spot improving by almost five minutes over ’13.
Danner (1:24:15, 1:21:22), Wedge (1:30:05, 1:27:42) and Williams (1:32:40, 1:28:04) each had negative splits. Razo was close with 1:33:25 and 1:34:12.
BILL KOTASKA, St. Louis, 3rd HOA, and GARY MUNDHENKE, Kansas City, 6th, are both age 52. They took the 11th and 12th spots, respectively, running together until shortly before the 9-mile mark when the St. Louisian began pulling away from the Kansas Citian. At 12 the gap was 2:05 but Kotaska was pulling away to the final finish, running 11th almost all the way. Mundhenke ranged back to 16th, but did close the gap so that no one finished between the two.
CHRIS COOK, in his 18th HOA and the winner in 2006, finished in 3:38:38, DAVE DOBKOWSKI, now 56, his 28TH consecutive HOA, and a four-time winner, 3:42:28, BROOKE SLOSS, St. Louis, his 15th, 3:56:57. STEVE BOURGEOIS, in from Steamboat Springs, CO, 17th HOA, age 50! , 3:59:23
JOHN SCHULZ ran his 20th consecutive HOA, more than anyone other than Dobkowski’s 28 and the 25 in a row put up by Lou Fritz from 1965-1989. His PB is 3:54:05, but it is his consistency, perseverance and loyalty to HOA which are truly admirable.
ATSUSHI KATO had Bib #155 pinned on his shirt in recognition of his 155th marathon. Kato is a father of four from Tokyo. He started marathoning when he became a father, his first marathon being in 1999, 3:56:51. He has a marathon in all 50 states, except three, and all 47 prefectures in Japan, except two. His PB is 3:11:11, Newport, OR. 99 of his marathons have been sub-4:00.
ROB EICHELBERGER is one of the barbers at the shop where I get my hair cut. This was his first marathon. My advice to him was simply go out slowly and just finish the thing, which he did.
No age records were set by any of the men, although Kotaska’s time of 3:18:27 ties for third for age-52 men, that tie being with CTC’s Fred Fritsch who posted the same time in 1988.
THE RACE, Women: Last year there were six women under 3:30, seven women between 3:21:22 and 3:30:36. This group of seven women threw themselves into a fierce cauldron of swirling, ever-changing positional mix stirring up a competitiveness that had never before been seen in HOA.
The 2014 HOA for the women was a gentle, placid contrast to that torrid affair of 2013. No one was under 3:30, the gap between first and second was over eleven minutes and twenty-six minutes between first and seventh.
NIKI HILGENBERG, St. Joseph, ran HOA in 2003, while living in Columbia, finishing 6th of 26 women in a time of 4:01:45. This year she was first of 57 women in a time of 3:31:26. She was out to a commanding lead, never headed, running a steady 8:00 minute-mile pace. Her halfway split was 1:46:23 prior to a negative split of 1:45:03 giving her a total time of 3:31:26 a final 8:04 per mile pace and an overall 14th place. Hilgenberg finished 11:18 ahead of: . . . . .
ANNE SIEVERS, Columbia, who won the Dave Schulte Award with a remarkable second half negative split. Sievers ran a 4:13:07 last year but eclipsed that by 30:23 with her 3:42:44 this time out, an 11.90% improvement. The Schulte Award competition was extremely close. MASASHIRO NAMBARA, Brookline, MO, running his 6th HOA had an 11.83% improvement (4:39:58 to 4:06:38) and DONOVAN EVANS, Columbia, was better by 11.27% (4:42:10 to 4:01:20). Had Sievers been 12 seconds slower (or Nambara thirteen seconds faster) she would not have won the award for best improvement.
However, a bigger story is how Sievers ran that second half. She and HEATHER COX, also Columbia, started together and ran in tandem all the way to a little past the 21 mile mark, going north on Providence Rd. Their halfway split was 1:56:45, which means Sievers ran the second half in a scintillating 1:45:59 €”10:46 faster than the first. At 6 miles Siever and Cox were in 71st place, at 9, 62nd, 12, 60th, halfway, 57th, then the fun began, still passing runners, rapidly, they were 50th at 15, 39th at 18, 35th at 21 when Sievers began pulling away. She covered the last 5 miles, 385 yards in 40:19, almost a minute faster than Hilgenberg, to finish 28th having passed 43 runners from six miles to the finish. Cox came in 4:53 later.
However, during that last stretch, DANIELLE CHIRUMBOLE, St. Louis, went by Cox to grab the 3rd place spot. Chirumbole had run in 2nd place, two to three minutes behind Hilgenberg to about 18 miles, until Sievers went by Chirumbole on Stadium, the latter having run most of the way about seven minutes ahead of the Sievers-Cox duo.
MELISSA MARTINEZ, Crocker, MO, her 2nd HOA, KINSEY McKENRICK, Lawrence, KS, her 1st HOA, and AMY LIVESAY, Rocheport, her 2nd, didn’t run together, but were within ten seconds or so of each other for the first 18 miles, when McKenrick fell back a little and Martinez separated from Livesay shortly before 21. McKenrick, however, came back to catch Livesay coming down Broadway to finish 6th, 16 seconds before Livesay, now 7th. Up ahead Martinez, running a strong 5-285, had finished 5th only a minute behind Cox and 4:32 ahead of McKenrick.
JENNIFER REISDORF, Columbia, her 3rd HOA, only five weeks after completing the Whistler, British Columbia Triathlon, got an HOA PB by five minutes, apparently finding HOA a walk-in-the-park, or an easy-run-in-the country, compared to first swimming 2 ½ miles, then biking 112 miles before running a marathon. It would be tough swimming in the Missouri River, biking the MKT trail then running up Easley Hill.
MARY ELLEN BRADSHAW completed her tenth consecutive HOA. Her average time over the first nine is 4:16:17, so she beat that by 42 seconds. However, she better keep coming back because MAUREEN O’HARE is coming after her. The Rocheport Runner now has eight in a row, but MEB has age in her favor.
RAE MOHRMANN now has five age records, getting age 66 where none existed before.
No other age records were set by the women
Epilogue: The Achillean flaw of Thor’s mischief did mar the 55th annual HOA; that fact has, by the foresight of the Marathon Gods, been etched onto the medals given to each finisher crossing the finish line and onto the age group award plaques presented at the Shakespearean awards ceremony, bearing the permanent appellation: “HEART OF AMERICA MARTHON.”