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




September 7, 2015

165 finishers were confronted with sticky, humid weather conditions. Even though the temperature never reached 80 degrees and the skies were mostly cloudy, no hot sun, the humidity took its toll on most runners, affecting their quest for an HOA personal best or even an improvement over 2014. There were runners in the field capable of a sub-3:00 performance, but that didn't happen. More on that later.

The pre-race favorite was Karl Gilpin, Russellville, MO, who had one of only a few known previous HOA sub-3:00s. He had run in 2013, finishing 4th in 2:51:13. Another pre-race favorite was Aaron Norman, Oak Grove, MO, in his 5th consecutive HOA. He was sub-3:00 in 2013 (7th at 2:57:51) and 2014 (5th, 2:59:15).

It was not surprising, then, that Gilpin took the early lead followed by the eventual winner, Jonathan Yoch, 27, first HOA, Collinsville, IL, and Norman. CTC's, Tom May, now 49, 9th HOA, was about a minute behind those three at the 3-mile split call, followed by CTC's Andy Emerson, 46, in his 12th consecutive HOA, Richard Stoutner, also 46, Oaxaca, MEXICO, Bill Kotaska, 53, St. Louis, MO, and Randell Hansen, Gold River, CA.

Those eight went through six miles in that same order, Gilpin and Yoch at 39:41, Norman 40:13, May 40:53, Emerson 43:22, Stoutner 43:43, Kotaska, 44:10, Hansen 44:18. By nine miles, Yoch had moved ahead of Gilpin, but only six seconds up at 59:25. May at 1:01:00 had gone by Norman, now 20 seconds behind. Emerson was at 1:05:32. The others were all 1:06+, although Hansen was now ahead of Kotaska.

At the 12-mile point, on the trail, just before Easley, Gilpin and Yoch were running together, 1:19:30, but Gilpin regained the lead by rolling up Mt. Easley 25 seconds faster than Yoch (1:27:15 to 1:27:40, at the summit, barely sub-3:00 pace). All the others had gone through 12 in the same order as at 9, except now Norman at 1:20:30 had put the 20 second deficit on May, 1:20:50. However, May, eased by Norman on Easley, ("easily"?) erasing that 20-second deficit, then adding a full minute. May was now at 1:30:25, the only other runner close to a sub-3. At half-way, the summit, Emerson, 1:36:45, went over the top ahead of the other four.

At 15 miles Gilpin went by in 1:41:05, 20 seconds in front of Yoch. May was still 3rd, 1:43:05, Norman 1:15 behind. Again, the other four came by, Emerson in front at 1:50:55. Now, sometime before the 18- mile location, just before Pierpont, Gilpin felt he had had enough and moved off the course giving the lead to Yoch: 2:02:50 at 18, just barely sub-3:00 pace. May was now in 2nd, 2:06:00, a minute ahead of Norman. Emerson was 4th , 2:14:10, with the others in the same order: Stoutner, Hansen, Kotaska as at 9, etc.

The seven went through 21 in the same order, Yoch in first, 2:23:54, May 2:27:55, Norman 2:28:58, Emerson 2:35:38. At 24 miles Yoch was 2:47:18, some three minutes off a sub-3:00. Norman ran the three miles between 21 and 24 in 23:25 to put him in front of May, who did that same stretch in 26:19. Emerson, still 4th, put on a charge covering the distance in 22:37, picking up almost four minutes on May. The other three were also charging, coming along almost as fast as Emerson, but he still maintained his persistent 1:30 margin over 5th place.

Now, there were only 2 miles, 385 yards to the finish. All positions remained the same, all the way to the CTC arch at 7th and Broadway, although Norman picked up a minute and a half on Yoch, and Emerson was 2:19 closer to May.

So went the men's race.


Notice how close to the 7th place man Natalie Runkle, St. Louis, was in finishing 8th overall. It wasn't quite that way at the beginning. Charisse Winter, Apopka, FL, was out in front shortly after the start, going by three miles in 23:25, with Runkle 37 seconds back. At that point Winter was in 18th place, Runkle, 19th. At 6 Winter was still in front at 46:31, Runkle only 11 seconds in arrears. Each had moved up one place behind the men.

Shortly after the turn onto Old Plank Road Runkle took the lead, and at 9 miles she, at 1:09:19, was 1:10 up on Winter. Runkel had now moved into 16th place. Running on the gravel between 9 and the entrance onto the trail, Winter, seeing Runkle ahead of her closed to within 31 seconds, Runkle now 1:31:18 at the 12-mile timing station. Winter could get no closer as the duo attacked Easley. With Runkle hustling up the hill, hitting half-way at 1:40:50, she increased her margin to 1:20 ahead of the Floridian. Runkle was now 15th, Winter 17th.

So the two proceeded with the 20-year-old Runkle gradually increasing the gap, with a notable 21:29, her fastest 3-miles of the day, between mile signs 21 and 24. She had moved up to 15th by 15 miles, 12th by 18, 11th at 21 and was now in 9th place at the Providence Rd/Stadium intersection, 24 miles, with only the two miles, 385 yards ahead of her. And how she flew across that distance like a NASCAR driver with his left-hand turns! The men were no match for her on that track. She rolled over those hills (ok, NASCAR has no hills), turns and straightaways in 16:37, faster than any of the eight guys ahead of her.

The fastest split for the men from mile 24 to the finish was 17:23, 46 seconds slower than the flying Runkle. At 24 Runkle was 1:12 behind 7th, but with her charge she got within 17 seconds of 7th, but ran out of room, still settling for a scintillating 8th place finish. (One of the eight guys, inexplicably, swerved away from the chip mats at the finish, so his name is not in the results). Of the first eight finishers, Runkle was the only one with negative splitsó1:40:50, 1:38:57.

Winter came across in 16th place almost 20 minutes after Runkle. Columbia's Grace Chiles, in her 4th HOA, now 42, led all the 40+ women finishing 22nd, overall, in 3:45:46. Leslie Hodge, also, Columbia, was the only other woman under 4:00:00.


Joe Company staged an Epic Endurance Weekend consisting of a 10K swim at the Sheridan Swim Club, Quincy, IL, followed by a 56 mile bike ride from Quincy to Bowling Green, MO. Overnight in Bowling Green, then a 130 mile bike ride to Columbia and overnight at Hampton Inn. The group of seven, five of them from Bloomington, IL, one from Quincy and one from Columbia, were up the next morning for HOA. They all finished as follows: Joe Company 4:00:13, Joe Piper, the Columbian, 4:28:28, David Quinn and Celeste Kudrys, 5:00:06, Rebecca Franks, Casey Schnack and Carrie Kass all 5:34:00.

Alex Keneipp, at age 18, a recent Hickman High graduate, a winner of the Marks Scholarship given by the Columbia Track Club, was the youngest finisher, finishing 11th with a fine 3:26:15.

Phil Schaefer, in his 11th HOA, had the second best time recorded (out of 19) for 62-year-old men with a 3:36:53. Gerald Glass, Springfield, has the record: 3:22:34.

Dave Dobkowski finished his 29th HOA, 3:51:46 at age 57. Of those 29 he had a consecutive streak of 17 (1988-2004) and has a currently active one of 10.

Mary Ellen Bradshaw has now extended her streak to 11, also extending her record of more HOAs than any other woman. Maureen O'Hare remains close behind, now with nine straight.

Brooke Sloss, St. Louis, has the longest active consecutive streak, 16, through 2015, and is one of only three runners who had finished HOA every year of the 21st Century. John Schulz had finished every year this century and had 19 in a row until the string was broken this year. So, too, it was with Steve Bourgeois, working on a string of 17, also missing 2015. Therefore, Sloss stands alone (runs alone?) as being the only person who can possibly run every HOA of the 21st century. He's age 43, so he may not make it.

Historically, the longest streak is the 25 years in a row put together by Lou Fritz, Verdon, NE, from 1965-'98. Chris Cook had 15 from 1996-'10, Don Johnson 14 (1978-91) and Jack Hudson, Mexico, MO 13, (1993-'05). Andy 12, and Mary Ellen 11, both still going, now have some targets.

Sankalp Shiva, CTC, won the Dave Schulte Award for Improved Performance. He finished 10th in 3:25:08, compared to 4:15:37 last year. He obviously has done some serious running since then showing an improvement of 19.74%.

The only other runner showing a double-digit improvement was Tom Moore, Greenwood, MO, 4:48:36 to 4:01:57, 16.16 % better. Moore first ran HOA in 1976 at age 18. He came back in 1981 & '82 getting his PB of 3:12:32 the latter year. Then, after a 29 year hiatus, he was back in 2011, '13 and '14. He couldn't come close to the times he put up as a young feller, but still in 2015, now age 57, he ran faster than in any of those other 21st century years.

Of the 49 finishers who finished in 2014 and came back in '15, only 13 of them showed an improvement, and five of those improved less than 2%. The reason for this, no doubt, was . . . .

The Weather: Somehow the atmospheric conditions seemed more uncomfortable than usual, certainly as compared to last year. The Schulte Award calculations show that 75% of last year's finishers failed to improve their performances, in many cases by a considerable margin. Yet, on paper, the conditions compare favorably with those of 2014. The temperature was 6-7 degrees warmer this year, but the humidity, which seemed to be the problem, was actually lower, 84% at the start, last year 93%, and continued to be a little lower throughout the morning. Last year there was 100% cloud cover the first two hours, then full sun. This year it was mostly cloudy with the sun only peeking through now and then. It was just a bad day at HOA for most runners.

Some miscellany:

Two records were set: Natalie Runkle, not only was the top female, she is now the top 20-year-old female, setting an age record with her 3:19:48 going under the 3:45:47 set by Paige Butler 36 years ago. Rae Mohrmann, St. Louis, ran to an age 67 record, 5:00:43, where none existed before. Mohrmann now has six female age records, ages 51, 62, then 64 through 67. She has run HOA six times, setting an age record each time.

The median time was 4:32:46 overall, 4:28:28 for the 105 men and 4:49:11 for the 60 women.

20 states and two countries were represented: AR, AZ, CA, FL, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MI, MO, MS, NC, NE, NY, OH, OK, SC, TX, and VA. Mexico and Canada. Still no one from AK, ND or VT.

At the top we mentioned that the 2015 HOA was the first one since 1962 not to have a sub-3:00:00 winner. In fact, it is the only one, with the current course, without a sub-3 winner. The first three HOAs were point-to-point courses, Columbia to Fulton. Of the total 19 finishers over those three years no one was sub-3. The record for the Columbia to Fulton HOA is 3:09:15 set in 1961 by Bill Silverburg, Overland Park, KS. He came back in '62 and won in 3:09:36.

The first runner to go under 3:00 was John Rose, Garden City, Ks, with a 2:56:27 in 1963 on a new course, which is the current course with a few changes concerning the start and finish, but the 17-mile loop between 3.5 and 20.5 has never changed except for a couple of years because of flood waters. John Grundy, Yorkshire, England was second in that '63 race at 2:58:03. Silverburg had 3:03:55.

Not only had there been no non-sub-3:00 winner since 1962, there were only two non-sub-3 second place finishes, 1964 and '95 and only six non-sub-3 third place finishes until 2015.

None of these facts and numbers may be significant, but they are interesting. The underlying immutable concept is that all those who finish a Heart of America Marathon may not be "elite" runners, but they are elite people running a "people's" marathon.

KUDOS to all our elite volunteers, some 150 of you. You are the best and are the heart of the workings of HOA. Special thanks to Dr. Tiffany Bohon, our new Medical Director, (Dr. Jill Murphey having moved to Colorado) EMT Earl Bryant and Tom LaFontaine, course runner monitor. The three of them handled a difficult medical situation with dispatch, compassion and the utmost professionalism. The runner spent four days at Boone Hospital. He went home Thursday, as well recovered as one would expect.