There is nothing like when the sun rises over the mountain ranges above Missoula Montana. Majestic and purple in the early morning, with rays of golden, blaze daring to peak out from behind them. It is quite spectacular, and something to behold.
This is the view that you will get as you take part in the Missoula Marathon and ½ Marathon.
I had the pleasure of running the ½ Marathon this year. I ran in 2009, and have been wanting to get back ever since.
From start to finish this race is top notch. The expo is located in the gorgeous, riverside, Caras Park. It is run so smoothly, as you check in to pick up your race packet. This year a great drawstring backpack, with your timing chip, your T-shirt, and a welcome pamphlet. No fliers, advertisements, or coupons for cool stuff you ask? This year, in trying to keep their event “green” they partnered with Virtual Race Bags. Registered runners then were able to view and link to their sponsors through an email sent to us, and/or through a QR Code to download or print their coupons of choice. This is SUCH a wonderful idea. How many races have we all been to, with coupon flyers in our bags that go unused? What a great way to pick and chose the coupon of your choice while not filling our land fills with wasted paper.
Bravo, Missoula Marathon and Virtual Race Bags.
The expo was also filled with venders, and very friendly people to assist and help in any way possible.
The morning of the race runs smoothly as well. Busses pick up runners on 2 sides of the road, for Full runners, and ½ runners. We waited in line no more than 5-7 minutes, before we loaded the bus to take us to our start. There we could drop our gear bags into numbered boxes, which were then transported to the finish line.
It was exciting waiting at the start with 3000 other runners. The announcer was hilarious, as he stood atop scaffolding in his tights, with his underwear on the outside. Yes, this is true! He took us through a warm-up, we all stood in silence to hear our National Anthem, and then an incredible fireworks display covered the morning sky above us. Beautiful explosions of blue, pink, purple in the dawn sky to send us on our way.
This course…. I can’t even begin to articulate the beauty of this course. It is by far one of the most spectacular courses I have run. The mountain ranges, which are the backdrop of this entire route, are unimaginable. As you start, the sun is just coming up, bronzing the mountain ranges. The course, which is fairly flat, winds along next to the Bitterroot and Clark Fork Rivers. There is something so serene about this course. Winding through country roads, farmland, residential neighborhoods, you see wildlife, birds, cows and horses running though their pastures. Just extraordinary scenery.
The spectators along the routes are tremendous! Out in the early morning, with their coffee and cowbell in hand to cheer you along. The aid stations are plentiful, 17 for the full and 10 for the ½, at about every 2-miles, and hopping with excited volunteers, adults, teenagers, football teams etc just waiting for you to pick up your H2O, Gatorade, Cliff Gel, and gummy bears. There was even one man out in his front yard, under a white canopy, playing his Grand Piano for us!!
The finish line. You can hear it for quite some time as you are closing in. As you come off of 4th St and round the corner onto Higgins Ave the streets are lined with spectators. Heading over the bridge (which is down hill) the party grows with enthusiastic spectators, yelling, screaming, cheering, until you see the balloon arch awaiting your arrival. The announcer, somehow, calls every name and where you are from as you cross that finish line to claim your medal.
This years medals were horseshoes, with a runner inside. Big, and beautiful!!
The post race festivities are impressive. First, a race photo taken at the finish that you claim later FOR FREE, then a food area, full of volunteers to serve you, pasta salads, several fruits, bagels and breads, frozen fruit bars (which are SO tasty), and fig cookies. Water and sports drink are also available. Back into Caras Park, they do an awards ceremony, and have free beer from Big Sky Brewing (one of my faves)
My finish time for the ½ marathon was 1:57. Not a PR for me, but it was a course PR. I felt great the entire way. Stuck to my hydration plan of having water at every other aide station and sticking to my Infinit Napalm. It worked amazingly well. I had zero GI issues, and had great energy the entire time. The only thing I may do different next year, other than possibly running the full marathon would be to stop and take some photos. All too often, I get so caught up in my pace and a PR, that I forget to “stop and smell the roses.”
This is a course that you can do both….you can definitely set a PR, due to the fact that it is flat and fast, but if that’s not what you are after, then it has tremendous beauty to take in.
This is truly a race you wouldn’t want to pass up!
Hangin’ in the river at Council Grove
A little Beer, A little Bling
Serious Heavy Medal
Great schwag bags!
Our friend finishing with her pup!
Great FREE race photos!!
Been known to say this a time or two.