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

61st Annual Heart of America Marathon
Labor Day, 2020
By Kathy Lee, with contributions from Joe Duncan

"Masked marathon: Heart of America marathon takes precautions and goes on as scheduled." This was the headline written by the KOMU reporter. Who would have thought, after the heyday of 2019 with all the fun and ceremony with the 60th running and the Inaugural HOA Fun Team Relay that this year we'd postpone the relay for a year, cap our marathon registrations, and totally remove all the fanfare (including spectators) that we had last year! This was the HOA marathon that Covid-19 built.

HOA almost didn't happen at all. The first request we submitted to the City and Health Department was denied. We pushed back and asked what it would take to still have HOA. We exchanged emails with the City and Health Department, we made changes, we had meetings. We got our permit!

Relieved, but recognizing the huge task and responsibility at hand, many, many people set to work to make sure guidelines were adhered to. With cooperation from the City of Columbia, we were able to get barriers and cones. The Boone County History and Culture Center gave us staff members and resources to assist with setup. We got masks and sanitizer. We found some new volunteers and we formed some new partnerships. We learned new things and we did things in new ways.

Then... the race day runner animals arrived! Protocols necessitated a staggered start (not a "staggering start" as one reporter noted). To maintain required distancing, and try to have a little fun, runners lined up two-by-two by assigned animal. The runners with the fastest estimated start times were labeled "Peregrine Falcons", and then 34 other animals were spaced out behind them according to the speed of the animal. We learned that the Tiger Beetle can still pull a respectable 5.6 mph! These are things you don’t expect to learn when planning a marathon.

The race start was delayed 5 minutes to allow for all to check in and find their mark. Protocols required we have a single, gated entry with check-in questions to the venue. Yes, this year was truly different.

Covid-19 or no, there are some things about HOA that are timeless:

Runners -- HOA attracts a special kind of marathoner and this was even more apparent this year. Even though so much was different, runners were as helpful, communicative, and supportive of each other, volunteers, and race officials as always. This was something we especially appreciated in 2020. A huge thank you to this amazing and unique HOA field!

Weather -- The annual temperature tease gave an extended forecast of mid-70s as a high for Labor Day. HOA veterans know that that’s all it is – a tease. As it turned out, the 2020 HOA moves into 9th place on the list of worst Labor Day weather. 53 of the 61 HOAs have been on Labor Day. The only reason 2020 is not ranked higher is because there was very little "full sun" as was true with the top worst days. The temp at the start was 72 and at the end (noon) 83. It was humid, as usual, but the partial cloudiness helped...

An Exciting Race -- The battle at HOA never disappoints and this year was no exception. The most fascinating takeaway from the 2020 HOA is the 11th, 12th and 13th place finishes of three 60+ year-old men, all three under 4:00, for only the second time in the annals of HOA, finishing within a span of three minutes, twenty-eight seconds. We’ll call this "The Sixty Plus Showdown"!

The three were Terry Sandwith, Slater, Mo, Tom Moore, Greenwood, Mo and Paul Schoenlaub, St. Joe. with times of 3:55:03, 3:56:53, and 3:58:31. This was Schoenlaub's 7th HOA. His PB is 3:08:33, 2003; Moore's 12th, his PB 3:12:32, 1982; Sandwith's 4th with a 2019 3:32:24 PB. Moore has now done eight in a row. The 62 male age record is a probable untouchable 3:12:10, set by Springfied's Gerald Glass, in 1999. Phil Schafer is 2nd, age 62, at 3:36:54, Sandwith is 3rd with his 3:55:03 while Moore misses 4th, by only two seconds at 3:56:53. Chuck Van Duzee, Bradenton, FL, was 3:56:51 in 1999.

The 2020 HOA saw an unprecedented packing of the 40+ crowd in the top finishers. All told, there were 39 men, 27 are 40+ (six 60+, the most ever), and only 12 under 40. The first seven finishers were 40+, including two women. Did Covid-19 make the 40+ crowd run fast??

The top two overall winners went to two men from Columbia this year. The top honor for the men goes to Gregory Blomquist who conquered this race at age 42 in just 3:08:21! Andy Emerson (51) did two things as he crossed the line in 3:22:22; Andy earned 2nd place overall finisher and also his 17th consecutive HOA streak. It is also noteworthy that Andy is a board member of the Columbia Track Club, which puts on HOA. He not only excelled on race day, but he was also instrumental in making sure the 2020 HOA happened in this difficult year! Third place overall honors went to Brian Todd (45) of Springfield Missouri.

Todd Thompson, Val Gingerich, Tom Moore and Sadie Smith (also noted below) all completed their Virtual Boston races at the 2020 HOA. HOA was one of just a few marathons held during the time frame of Sept 5th – Sept 14th in which Boston Runners could run their Virtual Boston.

Tom Moore, as noted above, was part of the “Sixty Plus Showdown”. Tom completed his Virtual Boston, and also was a sponsor and major encourager to race officials all through this process. Thank you Tom!

2020's female winner, Sadie Smith, St. Louis, came to HOA with high hopes and a big goals! Sadie had run a Boston Qualifying marathon in 49 states and in DC as of December 2019. Her final race to get her 50th BQ in her hometown of St. Louis was cancelled in March. The next race she signed up for went virtual. Determined to finish her 50 BQ journey this year she set her sights on HOA. Yes, HOA for her 50th state and 50th state BQ! HOA wasn’t the ideal set up, but as it turned out Sadie crossed the finish line in 3:33:42 - earning not only her 50th state BQ, and the first place female finisher prize - but also completing her Virtual Boston, and coming very close to the female record (age 41) belonging to Columbia's Krista White, who crossed the finish line at 3:30:42 in 2007! Sadie was a busy runner that day and still crossed the finish line smiling and looking strong!

Jennifer Reisdorf, Columbia, in her eighth HOA, also got a second-place age-list ranking, At age 48 she ran a 4:01:58 for #2 on the list. However, she would have been some five miles behind the top 48-year- old female, Branson’s Becky Lowrance who ran a remarkable, most likely, forever record 3;20:17 in 2005, her second of three HOAs.

Susan Schapira, Rocheport, 4th HOA, got into the second place mix, age 54, at 4:20:48, behind the 3:52:51 run of Jefferson City's Debe Jako. Jako is at the top of the list for ages 53, 54, 55 and 2nd at 56.

Mary Ellen Bradshaw (48) continued her streak of most consecutively run HOAs for the women. She crossed the HOA finish line in 4:17:23 for her 16th time in a row!

Rebecca Hennessey, Columbia, in her third HOA set the only record of the day: 5:10:33 for the female age 58 record, lowering the 5:21:02 Maggie Mount, Manhattan, KS had in 1999, her only HOA.

Schulte Award – Named in honor of Dave Schulte, this award goes to the runner who has the most improved performance from a previous personal best at HOA of under 5 hours. Jacob White of Ashland, MO takes home the Schulte Award this year. His 2020 finish time of 3:54:25 is a 15.51% improvement over his 2019 time of 4:37:29!

Schroeder Award – This award is in honor of Joe Schroeder, the winner of the first HOA in 1960. HOA was also Joe’s first marathon. Instituted in 2019, this honor is given to the M/F runners who have chosen HOA as their first marathon and cross the finish line first from that field. Heather Grote of Columbia, MO takes the Schroeder Award for the women with her 5:27:19 finish. Zachary Doyle of Columbia takes it for the men with a 4:13:05.

Volunteers – We not only had to limit the number of runners this year, but we also had to limit the number of volunteers! Understandably, there were some groups and individuals who would have loved to volunteer but were unable to help this year. Others, who were able, stepped in. Some changed the type of volunteering they did completely! Caityln Cunningham with CMC Massage is a good example. Last year, Caityln was one of our massage therapists at the finish line – the other massage therapist is the notable Katherine Reynolds who has an office in Rocheport. They both offer their services free for HOA finishers and they worked hard for us in 2019 at the finish line. At any rate, no massage was allowed this year – in fact, no Vendor Village at all, so Caityln, who has a Gator, volunteered her time and her family’s equipment to patrol the Philips Lake area in case a runner needed assistance on that most beloved out and back stretch. We really appreciated Caityln helping to keep our runners safe. What can we say about that Philips Lake stretch? Hey – it’s HOA – it has its tough spots, right?

Logistics - Logistics is always an important aspect of HOA, but this year it was even more so. We needed barricades, cones, taping and work for set up like we’ve not had before. Matt Rold, Columbia Track Club Board Member, leads logistics and this year it was a doozy. Matt led a talented team and got the job done.

Partnerships – HOA is excited to be in partnership with the Mid-Missouri Fisher House! The Mid-Mo Fisher House will provide free, temporary housing for families of veterans receiving hospital care. By 2022 there will be a Fisher House in Columbia Missouri on the Truman Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital campus. This Fisher house will accommodate up to 12 families of veterans at any given time, providing a no-cost place to stay for those traveling to Truman VA Hospital. Fisher House volunteers were instrumental in helping set up, tear down and assist with the 2020 HOA. Thank you for stepping in when we needed you Fisher House!

History - HOA has been the 4th oldest continuously running marathon in the U.S. behind Pike’s Peak, Boston and Atlantic City. With both Boston and Atlantic City being forced to go virtual in 2020, that seems that for in-person, continuously running marathons in the U.S, HOA is now #2!