Hundreds set for 13.1-mile challenge

Herald file photo
Heartland Half Marathon runners passed the Dubois County Courthouse in downtown Jasper near the beginning of the 2012 race. On Sunday, hundreds of runners and walkers will partake in the second annual event, which starts at 7:30 a.m. on the Third Avenue bridge overlooking Patoka River.

Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — For years, B.J. Thomas didn’t take care of his body, his weight at one point ballooning to 380 pounds.


A few years ago, he resolved to change his lifestyle after seeing an unflattering picture of himself on Facebook.

The photo, taken of him with his son Henry at a Southridge High School football game, wasn’t meant to be malicious. But Thomas, a 55-year-old radio DJ who lives in Huntingburg, shuddered when he saw the image.

“It looked terrible,” he said, later adding, “I didn’t realize I looked that way, I guess.”

He changed his diet and began walking and lifting weights every day. After building up his wind, walking gave way to jogging.

Before long, he entered 5K runs, then half marathons. On Sunday, he will join hundreds of runners and walkers in the second annual Heartland Half Marathon, which starts at 7:30 a.m. on the Third Avenue bridge overlooking Patoka River.

Instead of running, he will have to walk after hurting his right knee last week in a bicycle crash.

But “I will do the 13.1 miles Sunday no matter what. That’s for sure,” said Thomas, who has lost 160 pounds and taken 10 inches off his waist since he began exercising and dieting.

His weight loss has plateaued, but he tries to improve his time at each race.

“I compete against myself,” he said.

He has done dozens of 5Ks and half marathons throughout the region. Earlier this year, he finished his first full marathon, in Carmel.

“It’s really nice to have something this close instead of having to travel,” said Thomas, who also competed in the Heartland race last year.

Organizers say 500 people have signed up, and more are expected to register before Sunday.

Runners from as far as Wisconsin, Tennessee and Texas have entered the race.

Last year, 737 competed and 600 finished. It rained on the day of the race, but this year the weather is supposed to be hot and humid, with a high of 92 degrees Sunday.

Saturday will have an overnight low of 71 degrees with a slight chance of a shower or thunderstorm.

Money raised from the half marathon will go to the Phillip R. Dawkins Heart & Vascular Center at Memorial Hospital. The race raised $14,000 last year.

The idea of having a half marathon in Jasper began with five or six people who run religiously, gathering each weekend in front of the downtown fire station.

Every year, they run a marathon together in a different state. A few years ago, while coming home from a marathon in South Carolina, “We thought, ”˜Why not have a half marathon in Jasper?’” said Kenny Hochgesang, one of those runners who is helping organize the race.

The course is the same as last year’s. Third Street and Third Avenue from Brucke Strasse to Newton Street will be closed from 6 to 7:30 a.m. Sunday.

Police will be stationed at high-traffic intersections, including U.S. 231 and Indiana Street, St. Charles Street and State Road 56 and U.S. 231 at Northwood Avenue and 30th Street.

Boy Scouts and other volunteers will line the route, handing out water and Gatorade.

Not all will tackle the full 13.1 miles. Those who enter have the option of doing just a 5K, or 3.1 miles.

“Whether you run or walk, it doesn’t matter as long as you have the desire to finish,” Hochgesang said.

Contact Tony Raap at

More on