Heart of America marathon takes off for its 60th year

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COLUMBIA- The Heart of America Marathon celebrated its 60th year Monday.

The race through Boone County is the fourth longest continuously running marathon in the United States. It's been run every single year since 1960.

It started out as a challenge between boxers at the Columbia Athletic Club and University of Missouri runners. Now, it's one of the oldest athletic competitions in mid-Missouri.

The course begins at the Boone County History and Culture Center and runs through Cooper's Landing along the Missouri River and on the Katy Trail before finishing back at the center.

Race director Kathy Lee said the marathon is notoriously difficult because it takes place on Labor Day every year.

"Part of the draw is that you conquer the heat, hills and humidity," she said. "It's one of our little tag lines. We say heat, hills and humidity at no extra charge."

The Fun Team Relay was new this year. It took on the same course at the same time as the regular marathon, and allows runners to conquer the race as part of a team.

Lee said the new addition has breathed new life into the competition.

"It has brought a lot of people that maybe don't want to run the entire 26.2 [miles], but they want to run part of it and still be part of the event," she said.

Another change this year was location. For the past two years, the race has ended at the Research Park, and before that it ended on Broadway.

"With the growth of the community, it was time to find a better venue," Lee said. "The Boone County History and Culture Center have been the perfect partners for us."

Lee said what keeps people coming back to the marathon through the years is the strong community support.

"We're not New York, we're not Chicago," she said. "We have good down-home community support."