Missoula Marathon 2011 – Bragging Rights to #5

By WALT MAX

It’s once again time for runners to converge on Missoula for the Missoula Marathon, 2011 edition. In just its fifth year, the Missoula Marathon has gained a national reputation. After being named the best marathon in the U.S. by Runners World magazine — an exciting and unexpected feat — last year’s 2010 marathon saw a dramatic increase in runners and representation from all 50 states. It’s hard to believe that the inaugural run was  just five short years ago.

Twice in my running life, I’ve seen the birth of a new marathon.  After a long drought, Philadelphia hosted its first in over a decade.  The event came to life suddenly, and though I had already registered for New York, I couldn’t possibly miss out on the fun in my hometown.  So what if they were right on top of each other, Philly following New York by two weeks?

At the time I was living in New York, had run that city’s famous foot race, and thus felt no need to distinguish myself with a great time.  In my rather optimistic thinking, I’d run NY as my last training run, at an easy pace that would keep me fresh for the next battle.  And so I did, “saving” myself for Philly.  With lots of hydration, rest and good spirits, I was certain a PR was in the making.  If I could run that well in a “training” run, think what I was capable of when I pushed myself!  With great expectations, I ran, and I did run faster.  Eight seconds faster.  That day I learned for sure to respect the distance.

After ten years of visiting our two children who both moved to Montana, we made the same migration.   At that time the Governor’s Cup in Helena was the state’s only marathon.  Missoula, which had a rapidly growing running community, was rife with rumors of getting its own. In 2007 the rumors became reality as the Missoula Marathon came tolife.

I signed up with some trepidation at the thought of a July start.  This was a month that my east coast brain still associated with “hot and muggy”, but it was Montana, right?  Warm, low humidity days with cool sleep friendly nights.  No problem!  Well, anyone who has an Missoula Marathon t-shirt with the legend “Inaugural Event” has bragging rights to running in some of the hottest weather imaginable.  My broiled brain recalls a finish line temperature in the mid 90’s.  It was not pretty, but at the same time, how could you not love it.

The Missoula Marathon has remained my favorite race and I’ve managed to run, hobble, or limp through all four of them.   I like streaks and had hoped to keep this one going as long as I wasable.

However, this past winter, I injured my ham string and had to drastically reduce my training.  A spasm of improvement at the last minute convinced me unwisely that I could get in shape and join the battle.  The thought of being on the sidelines, watching that beautiful stream of runners – me not with them – was an unbearable thought.  Now, with very minimal training, my expectations are very modest.  But I will run.

I often wonder what it is about this distance that draws me to it so.  It’s my annual benchmark to see how fit I am and to make sure I don’t slack off from training.  It provides me with the bragging rights to “I’m a Marathoner”.  A chance to collect cool t-shirts (also, don’t forget jeans protection).  All of us bring something to the marathon in exchange for what it gives us back.  Whether we are fleet footed or flat footed, we all gain an understanding of our limits and our capabilities.  The distance can defeat, but more often it motivates, captivates and inspires our spirits.

Missoula is fortunate to host such an event. If you’re a resident who happens to see runners as they run this incredibly scenic route, cheer them on and show your hometown pride and support. And for all you Missoula Marathon runners — run well.

Like this blog?  Chances are you’d like these posts from our running blog:  Running Buddies or  Back of the Packers.    Or, check out our Missoula Running and Walking page or Missoula Outdoor Recreation section.

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Walt Max is a semi retired computer professional who lives with his wife, Sue, and an undetermined number of woolly critters on Woolly Critters Ranch outside Alberton, Montana.   When he’s not chasing goats or grandkids, managing tech projects or writing the next Great American Novel, he’s probablyrunning.