04
Apr
16

Marathon No. 5: Big Sky ‘hi’

I literally left Boston behind after the 2004 Marathon.

Two weeks prior to the race, I began a new job in Bozeman, Montana. I barely had an apartment set up when I flew back to Boston for the race.

At the beginning of April, I began a four-day, 2,200-mile drive to this new land. My wife and I decided we wanted a change of pace. We got it. Bozeman seemed like a world away, but it’s just like any other small city – just add mountains and wide-open spaces.

Big Sky country offered lots of snow, but plenty of outdoor activities. And I soon began joining the local running club – the Big Sky Wind Drinkers – for Wednesday night runs.

The club was very welcoming. My first race was a 10-miler in the mountains. Lots of switchbacks and walking because of the steepness, but it was a good way to get christened into the area’s running scene. There were 50K races and lots of local ultramarathoners that became either my training partners or subjects for the stories I wrote for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

By the end of the summer, I was ready for another marathon. Like our new home, the race was a complete turnaround from my prior experience with the 26.2- mile distance.

I chose the Montana Marathon in Billings in late September of ’04. There were just more than 100 runners and we started near a farm in the town of Molt. It was cows, grasslands and porta-potties (for one day, anyway).

We hopped a bus in the dark in Billings and headed for the start. It was about 55 degrees in Billings, but once we got into the country, the temp dropped at least 15 degrees. Another shivering start, but it sure beat the heat of my last race.

There isn’t much that stood out to me about this race. We ran on dirt roads before getting close to the end in Billings. The most memorable part was finishing at the track at Daylis Stadium.

I began fading at Mile 23, but once I saw the track and knew the end was near, I wanted to pick up my pace. Runners were required to run about 300 meters of the track. And when I reached the final turn, I sped up. But my legs were having none of it, and I started to wobble.

I nearly lost my balance and began thinking about how to fall gracefully, but I remained upright and finished in 3:06. It was a nice bounce-back from my two 4-hour Bostons. I placed third overall and won a Montana Marathon cap – once that had holes in the top in order to let your skull “breathe.”

Small marathons became a running theme for my stay in Big Sky country.

Mostly. My next one was definitely “big city.”

 

 

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