Masked marathon: Heart of America Marathon takes precautions and goes on as scheduled
COLUMBIA - While many races around the country went to a virtual format this year, the 61st Annual Heart of America Marathon went on as scheduled Labor Day morning.
The race worked with the city of Columbia and the Boone County Health Department to ensure they had a plan that was safe and in accordance with local regulations.
Runners were spaced 10 feet apart at the starting line and were asked to wear a mask when passing other runners.
Race Director Kathy Lee said to maintain their 10 foot distance, only two people started at one time.
"So we had 35 rows of two-by-two," Lee said.
There were also no spectators allowed at the finish line and no awards ceremony this year.
"We just got rid of age group awards," Lee said. "But the runners are just happy to have an event to do. So no age group awards, and for the overall winners, we'll mail them their prize."
St. Louis native Ron Golan was running his 99th marathon today and is no stranger to the Heart of America Marathon.
"I keep coming back, and my wife keeps asking me 'why do you do it again? You've done it a couple of times,'" Golan said. "But it's just fun! I just like it."
Golan said he runs 10 to 12 marathons a year. He was scheduled to run his 100th career marathon back in April, but his 99th and 100th were canceled due to the pandemic.
"Most marathons you have waves that are like hundreds of people [at the start], and this was two at a time," said Golan. "So it was very strange."
Despite all the changes, Golan said he was just happy to have an in-person race. Several races this year, including the Boston Marathon, have been completed virtually.
"I am not a big fan of virtual races," he said. "I actually did one, it was more of a fundraiser, so I signed up just to help some charity. But it's not the same. I really enjoy the fact that [the Heart of America Marathon] is an actual race despite all the issues and the precautions."
The Heart of America Marathon also introduced a new partner this year, the Fisher House Foundation.
Fisher House, which provides temporary housing to veterans' families while their family members receive medical care, is coming to mid-Missouri soon.
Friends of Mid-Missouri Fisher House Board Chair Stephen Gaither said the plan is to build a Fisher House facility on the grounds of the Truman VA Hospital.
"Hopefully we break ground in 2022," Gaither said. "[There will be] 10 to 12 suites in that house and that means 20 to 24 people can be served every night of the year."