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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Labor Day in Columbia, Missouri means the Heart of America Marathon. This is considered by some to be the most challenging non-mountainous marathon in the nation due to the course and climate. I had run 14 miles of this course in last year’s race and was amazed at how much I enjoyed myself. This year I was going to run the whole thing. It would be my second marathon this year and my fourth one overall.<br><br>
It is a nice change to sleep in my own bed the night before a marathon and show up at the race to see all of my familiar running buddies. My goal for this race was 3:30. Phil and Jaira had led me to believe that they had similar goals, so I figured I might be able to kill some miles with their company along the way.<br><br>
It was pitch dark at 6:00 AM when the race started on Stadium Boulevard in front of the Hearnes Center.<br><br>
Mile 1: 8:02<br><br>
I started out right on pace. However, I was by myself as everyone else who I had hoped would run with me seemed to be behind me. This mile is a very nice opening mile as it heads downhill almost immediately making the warm-up easy.<br><br>
Mile 2: 7:56<br><br>
This mile begins the first climb of the day, but I still have some momentum going from the opening downhill mile. I see my friend Shannon at the end of this mile and his encouraging words were much appreciated as I have a long way to go at this point. Still no sign of any of my running buddies.<br><br>
Mile 3: 7:53<br><br>
As the sky begins to lighten during the early portion of this mile, I hear someone edging up beside me and it turns out to be Phil. I am feeling super-comfortable at this pace and am amazed at how fast the first three miles flew by.<br><br>
Mile 4: 7:47<br><br>
Phil and I maintain an easy cadence as Providence turns into Route K. At this point, Brad Eiffert and Jay Burchfield are running with us. Phil wonders out-loud if he shouldn’t drop down to a 7:30 pace, especially considering that the next few miles are gradually downhill.<br><br>
Mile 5: 7:43<br><br>
Phil begins to pull away from me as I continue to keep things at a comfortable pace. Before I even had a chance to feel lonely, Dave Wilfong joins me and we begin reminiscing about how we ran this portion of the race the previous year when we ran the first 14 miles of it as a training run.<br><br>
Mile 6: 7:46<br><br>
Dave and I enjoy the gradual decline out into the countryside south of Columbia and are both encouraged at how quickly the first six miles of the race have gone.<br><br>
Mile 7: 7:49<br><br>
Dave pulls ahead and I wonder if he is going to try to catch Phil who is quite a ways ahead (but still within sight). This mile is flat as I approach the second major hill of the course.<br><br>
Mile 8: 8:05<br><br>
After grabbing water at the aid station at the bottom of the hill, I begin the climb up Old Plank Road. I am pleased that I am able to pass a number of runners here and end up catching right back up to Wilfong.<br><br>
Mile 9: 7:44<br><br>
This mile is perhaps one of the most scenic views on the whole route as we are in a highlands area and can see for miles in every direction. I take my first Gu along here and am able to wash it down with some water. Dave and I hit the 9-mile mark and are informed by a course attendant that we are in 30th and 31st place.<br><br>
Mile 10: 7:45<br><br>
The course now begins a very gradual descent down to the river bottom and the surface changes to gravel. Phil appears to be a full half-mile ahead and Dave once again picks up the pace while I am content to keep things as they are.<br><br>
Mile 11: 8:02<br><br>
My pace slows as I reach the river bottom and am navigating the best route through the dusty gravel road. I cross a bridge and the immense Missouri river is now running swiftly to my right. Brad Eiffert and Jay Burchfield are running with me again as we approach Cooper’s Landing, at which point Brad is going to drop out and meet up with Jay at a later point in the race.<br><br>
Mile 12: 8:05<br><br>
My pace continues to slow along these flat miles as I am now running on the Katy Trail directly alongside the Missouri River. I do feel some humidity rising off the water and notice that the river actually seems to be moving faster than I am. This really is a beautiful view being this close to the river. The only problem is: Easley Hill is just ahead and is now tormenting all of my thoughts. It’s no wonder my pace had slowed as I was gathering my energy for one of the most ridiculous hills in all of road racing. Norm is shouting out 12-mile splits here and then I see Shannon and my dad getting some video footage of the runners coming down the Katy Trail. It’s always nice to see some familiar faces.<br><br>
Mile 13: 8:33<br><br>
The route turns away from the river and begins a horrifying climb up the dreaded Easley Hill. Most of the runners have now become walkers as I plod my way up and up and up. Just when you think the hill can’t get any steeper, it does. I am now breathing heavily and my legs are hurting as I struggle up the three-quarter mile climb that rises almost 300 feet. Despite my lackluster pace, I pass four or five runners on this hill alone. When the hill finally begins to level off at the top, I see something almost as scary as the hill I had just crested: direct sunlight.<br><br>
Mile 14: 7:38<br><br>
What an interesting sensation it is to run up a hill and have to work hard to just keep running only to find that once you make it over the hill, you are able to then run effortlessly at a fairly respectable pace. I have gained considerably on Wilfong as I see him about 100 yards ahead of me. I am slightly worried about the sun which is now overhead. Will the heat become a factor and wreck my plans for an easy marathon this morning?<br><br>
Mile 15: 7:36<br><br>
Overall, I am pleased with how I feel knowing that Easley is behind me. I continue to gain on Wilfong as I pass the Nashville Baptist Church. However, I am getting warm and am looking forward to the next drink station as I am a bit thirsty. Lo and behold, my dad drives up alongside me with Shannon, Elly and Robin in the car. Elly is able to pass me a bottle of Gatorade. It tastes heavenly.<br><br>
Mile 16: 7:42<br><br>
I take my second Gu at the water station at the beginning of this mile and also dump some water over my head which feels nice and cools me off sufficiently. I also catch Wilfong here and he says that he’ll run with me for the next three miles as he is stopping after 18 miles.<br><br>
Mile 17: 7:41<br><br>
These last three miles have been through rolling terrain which I found to be surprisingly easy to maintain pace. I am still feeling very good through here.<br><br>
Mile 18: 7:48<br><br>
This mile is a steady climb up to Pierpont where the course turns back toward Columbia. Wilfong and I have cut the gap on a few runners who appear to be struggling. It’s nice to get another significant hill behind me. I grab some Gatorade at the Pierpont aid station as Dave drops out with a few words of encouragement. I pass two other runners who are taking their time getting water, while Oscar Chavez now appears to be within striking distance.<br><br>
Mile 19: 7:25<br><br>
As I begin the descent down into the Rock Bridge Devil’s Icebox area along Highway 163, I notice my quads being sore. I think all of the hills are beginning to take their toll on my legs. While I was able to make great time coming down the hill, I am definitely feeling fatigued as I see the steep climb awaiting me in the next mile. I appear to be gaining on three runners ahead of me (Oscar, Brooke and Krista).<br><br>
Mile 20: 8:05<br><br>
I struggle up the hill which heads out of the Devil’s Icebox up towards Rock Bridge Elementary. However, I am able to pass two runners on the hill who appear to be hurting worse than me at this point. Oscar continues to stay just ahead of me.<br><br>
Mile 21: 7:50<br><br>
I am able to make it back up to Providence Road and am even able to pass Oscar as I run right through the water station quickly grabbing some Gatorade to choke down as I head north towards town.<br><br>
Mile 22: 7:54<br><br>
I am now out in the open with the sun beating down on me. I am tired and starting to feel some significant pain in my legs. This mile seems to stretch forever and I have to resist the urge to stop and walk a number of times. I see one runner (a young lady) well ahead of me, but I doubt I’ll be able to catch her with how poorly I am feeling. I just hope that I can keep it together and finish the race.<br><br>
Mile 23: 8:46<br><br>
I continue to struggle, yet am closing the gap on the girl ahead of me. I am starting to feel dehydrated even though I’ve been taking fluids at almost every aid station. Elly is waiting for me at the aid station during this mile and I end up stopping for about 30 seconds to get a good drink of Gatorade and take my last Gu. I then head off down the Providence hill toward campus.<br><br>
Mile 24: 9:10<br><br>
I feel somewhat refreshed after taking my time to get some fluids in me at the last aid station. It also helps running downhill during the first part of this mile. But as soon as I begin the hike back up Providence toward the football stadium, my legs just about collapse from fatigue. I keep them moving for a little while, but succumb to the ache in my legs by walking the rest of the way up the hill. As soon as it flattens out, I begin running again.<br><br>
Mile 25: 7:55<br><br>
I am now running along Stadium Boulevard and feel pretty good getting back down to pace. All of the hills are now behind me and I’m now intent on just finishing this race. If I can pass any more runners, that would be great.<br><br>
Mile 26: 7:22<br><br>
Even though fatigue has set in, I now know that I am going to finish so I give it all that I have. I have turned off of Stadium onto College. I pass two runners along College as I speed up and am very pleased to see that I will comfortably beat my goal time of 3:30. I see Linda LaFontaine ahead at the Broadway intersection playing her accordion. I make the left onto Broadway and know that I only have a few more blocks to run.<br><br>
26.2 Miles: 3:27:07<br><br>
I drop down to a 6:10 pace for the last stretch along Broadway. I see the people lined up at the finish. As I finish off the race on the last block between 8th and 7th, I give Tom and Shannon a high-five just before crossing the finish line. Believe it or not, this was fun.<br><br>
Time: 3:27:07 (20th finisher overall)<br>
Pace: 7:54<br>
Fastest Mile: 7:22 (Mile 26)<br>
Slowest Mile: 9:10 (Mile 24)

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Sounds like you slayed a tough course. Nothing like sleeping in own bed and seeing familiar faces to create a relaxing setting.<br><br>
You've been running fabulously this year. Congrats.

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An excellent report.<br><br>
My daughter goes to Mizzou and the descriptions are fantastic. I have camped down at Coopers and crawled through Devils icebox and confirm those hill reports.<br><br>
Great Great Job

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
You totally should. I plan to make it a Labor Day tradition from now on. If you are still going to be keeping a crazy schedule of running, it offers a possible triple weekend for you being on a Monday.

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Great RR ...congratulations!!! Being a Missourian, I absolutely NEED to run a marathon in that state. Loved your descriptions of the course. I'm from St. Louis originally but one of my sisters attended Mizzou so I'm familiar with some of it.
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