2004 Heart of America Marathon - A Barefoot Challenge Achieved!

Columbia Missourian Newspaper Article - September 6

Columbia Missourian Newspaper Article - September 7


Finish - 3:57:41
Pace - 9:04
51st of 116 finishers

If you want lots of crowd support and a huge field of runners, the Heart of America Marathon in Columbia Missouri is not for you. However, if you enjoy breathtaking Ozark landscapes and all you can hear is the sound of your feet (or shoes) striking the pavement, then this one is right up your alley.

September 6, 2004 was the 45th running of the HOA. It is touted as the 2nd oldest marathon in the country next to Boston. The  weather, most years, is brutally hot and humid. Not so this year as the temps were in the high 50s at race start and never climbed more than the low 70s. The weather, plus the huge hills, are what keeps the field low in numbers. This is a runner's marathon with no frills. I love it. It is the 3rd time I've run it ... the first time barefoot.

I talked to Joe Duncan a couple of months ago on the phone, and he assured me no one has ran the HOA barefoot in 45 years. I told him I was going to be the first. I reassured him of that fact at packet pickup the night before the race.

My drive to Columbia from Lee's Summit was bittersweet. I was excited about doing this race, however, I was also on my way to
University Hospital in Columbia to visit with a family that attends our church. Their daughter, who is a close friend of my daughter's, was competing in a cross-country event on Saturday and collapsed after the race. She went without oxygen for several minutes and was in a coma. I arrived in Columbia and went straight to the hospital. She is only 14 years old and they are praying for a miracle. As of today, there is still no word of improvement.

Later, I checked into my motel and went to drive the course. I wanted to check out the 3 miles of gravel road between miles 9 and 12. I tested it out with bare feet and I knew it was going to be a challenge. I finished driving the course, went to Papa John's for my large Pepperoni and Anchovy pizza, and headed back to the motel to prepare for the next day.

Race Day

It rained the night before so the asphalt was cool with temps in the high 50s, as previously stated. We started at 6 a.m. and headed south out of Columbia. I chatted with a guy (Mark) who had just completed Pike's Peak a couple of weeks ago. He said that HOA and Hogeye in Arkansas were the toughest next to Pike's Peak. I've never done Hogeye, or Pike's Peak, but I took his word for it.

The first 9 miles were fairly uneventful. At the beginning of 10, this was going to be where I found out whether I had what it took to do this course barefoot. I slowed down immediately on the gravel, picking my way through smoother areas. At times, I was running a 12 minute pace but I did not stop to walk (I did not walk a step of this entire marathon). I made it through the gravel and my feet were still feeling really good. It was time to get back on the asphalt at Easley Hill.

Easley Hill has been called the Pike's Peak of the Ozarks. It is a near vertical ascent for over a half mile. Fortunately, the asphalt was new so I just kept running, although I passed a couple who were walking up the monster. The next 9 miles or so were a series of lesser hills (still big, however) over new asphalt (aaaah!).

At mile 21, we were back on Providence Road heading back into Columbia. I was feeling surprisingly good. As many of you know,  my first barefoot marathon at Boston this year was just under 5 hours. Olathe Marathon on Memorial Day was under 4 and a half. I could tell I was going to make my goal of under 4 hours for this one. (For those who don't know my history, I ran  this course with shoes on 3 years ago in 3:18. Learning to run barefoot has been like re-learning how to run. In retrospect, I probably could have ran faster than I did today but I did not want to overdo it. Build slow, and the speed will come back as my confidence does.) Anyway, I digress. The last 5 miles were comfortable as I rolled into the finish line at 3:57:41.

Here are the splits that I captured. It was dark starting off and I couldn't see the first few too well:

Mile 1-3 - 27:32
Mile 4-6 - 26:05
Mile 7 - 8:57
Mile 8 - 9:36
Mile 9 - 9:03
Mile 10 - 9:35
Mile 11 - 11:57
Mile 12 - 9:09
Mile 13 - 11:11
Mile 14 - 8:19
Mile 15 - 8:48
Mile 16 - 8:42
Mile 17 - 8:13
Mile 18 - 9:28
Mile 19 - 9:00
Mile 20 - 8:56
Mile 21 - 8:20
Mile 22 - 8:59
Mile 23 - 8:45
Mile 24 - 8:41
Mile 25 - 8:27
Mile 26 - 8:15
Mile .2 - 1:30

Goals accomplished:

1st barefoot runner to run the course in HOA's 45 years of existence
Under a 4 hour marathon
Ran the entire distance
Completed 21st marathon
Completed 3rd barefoot marathon

Thanks for reading!

Barefoot Rick (alias Hobbit)

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