Marathon notebook – September 24

Inspired by a local hero

Columbus Police Department Sgt. Richard Howell used the inspiring story of two Navy SEALS last year to help motivate him during the Mill Race Marathon — his first attempt at running a marathon. This year, he drew inspiration from someone closer to home.

Howell ran in memory of U.S. Army Sgt. Jonathon Hunter, 23, a 2011 Columbus East High School graduate who died Aug. 2 in a suicide bombing attack on a NATO convoy in southern Afghanistan which also killed another soldier. A public visitation and funeral service were conducted at the high school last month.

He also worked with marathon organizers to have three marathon medals engraved on the back with “In memory of Sgt. Jonathon Hunter” so that he could give them to Hunter’s wife, father and brother.

“This is something good the marathon and community can say, ‘We remember and will never forget,’” Howell said.

Howell recalled taking his nephew, J.D. Howell, and Hunter to an East varsity football game at Jennings County years ago, and being impressed with Hunter.

So, he contacted Hunter’s father, Mark Hunter, and asked his permission to run in Jonathon’s memory, and if he had something that belonged to his son that he could carry during the run.

Howell carried with him a challenge coin of Hunter’s from his airborne division to touch when he needed a little extra boost. Last year he carried replica patches of two of the Navy SEALS made famous in the book and movie “Lone Survivor.”

He finished the marathon in about 4 hours, 34 minutes — about 30 minutes faster than last year.

Hunter’s memory and the coin gave Howell a boost — and perspective — when the race became challenging, he said.

“What I’m doing is nothing compared to giving your life for your country,” Howell said.

— Kirk Johannesen

Team effort

The 5K race was popular with many younger runners, and most members of the Northside Middle School boys and girls cross country teams competed this year.

It’s an optional race for the kids, said girls coach Jordan Callison, who was the women’s overall 5K winner.

“It’s a very cool experience for them. They realize at an early age that running is more than for your school, but can bring the community together,” Callison said before the race.

The 5-kilometer distance (about 3.1 miles) was longer than the kids usually run, she said, noting that their races are usually 3 kilometers (about 1.8 miles).

Ethan Lax, a 13-year-old Northside runner, said he had fun and was happy with how the runners performed.

“I’m surprised how well we did. We don’t train for long races,” Lax said.

His teammate, eighth-grader Matthew Newell, won the men’s 5K race.

— Kirk Johannesen

our granddaughter

Grandparents were waiting in Mile 4 of the Mill Race Marathon on Third Street for Cassie Hamm to pass by. But she was moving so fast they almost missed her.

Don and Ann Lucas of Columbus were there to cheer on their granddaughter, Cassie Hamm, 27, of Indianapolis, accompanied by her husband, Spencer Hamm.

Spencer Hamm said Cassie, who was running the half marathon, was shooting for a 2:20 or 2:30 time for the half, but was worried about Saturday’s heat slowing her down.

“I think it’s going to be a rough day,” he said, just as Cassie ran by quickly, yelling “Hey” to get their attention, cellphone in hand.

— Julie McClure

Homecoming race

Mike Ferree served as the Bartholomew County Purdue Extenstion educator for 12 years before retiring at the end of 2012. Since then, he and his wife Paula have been touring the country in a recreational vehicle.

However, they make sure to stop in Indiana to see friends. Those stops have included Columbus to participate in the Mill Race Marathon.

Mike Ferree, 59, registered for the marathon — his 18th marathon event since 2005 — and Paula signed up to walk the half-marathon, he said.

He competed in the inaugural marathon in 2013 and again last year. However, this year when he reached Mile 12, where the marathon and half-marathon courses split, Ferree opted to cut his day short and finish on the half-marathon course — something race organizers encouraged runners to do because of the high temperatures.

“I was listening to my body and it was saying this is all you’re going to do today,” Ferree said.

The Ferrees had another special reason to return to Indiana besides the marathon. Their youngest son, Sam, and his wife had a baby girl — the elder Ferrees’ first grandchild.

— Kirk Johannesen

High temps don’t mix

Humidity and rising temperatures likely contributed to a modest turnout in the kids activity area as part of the Finish on Fourth After Party.

Frank Bunton, a balloon artist, said the heat and Hope Heritage Days — held 20 minutes away in Hope — were what was keeping many people away from the planned party Saturday afternoon in Columbus. He has set up his booth in downtown Columbus as part of the Mill Race Marathon and said in previous years, he has been used to getting about $200 an hour in tips, noting he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to reach that amount.

A-1 for Fun, which brought two inflatable bounce houses to the area, also saw a dip in customers this year, said Rod Case, manager of the Muncie-based company. He also attributed the decline to the heat and Hope Heritage Days.

Caleb Maddox, an employee of A-1 for Fun, was in charge of Space Ball, a clear globe that people sit in and spin around. Maddox said the kids activity was much busier before noon but tapered off when temperatures began to rise.

North Vernon resident Shari Burton was among those who brought her four grandchildren — Stephen Hall, Wyatt Burton, Easton Burton and Allie Burton — to the kids activity area and a visit to the bounce houses. Burton said the weather wasn’t a deterrent for her and her family. She also made plans to visit the kidscommons children’s museum, which offered free admission.

— Matthew Kent and Julie McClure

Preschoolers cheer

The tiniest Mill Race Marathon fans were handing out some big encouragement on Franklin Street in the opening miles of the Mill Race Marathon.

A group of preschoolers was jumping up and down and offering high-fives to runners as they passed by across from the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce.

Kennedy Coy, 4; Jones Hayden, 4; Gibson Deckard, 5; and Porter Pushor, 3 — all of Columbus — had several runners slow down for a high five and some actually stop for a second to get a salute from all four.

Their families said the youngsters had been at this for nearly 40 minutes and Saturday’s effort wasn’t the first time the youngsters had stepped up with their own special way to encourage runners. Runners know that the corner on Franklin is where to get high-fives, they said.

— Julie McClure