Marathon No. 13: Paying homage

There are small-town marathons. And there are small marathons.

And there are three-dollar marathons. OK, there may only be one of those.

The Frank Newman Marathon, which starts in Bozeman, may be the lowest-key marathon ever. And the least expensive.

The race begins near Bridger Bowl ski area with a simple painted white line along the road. There is no race clock, no chip timing, no bib numbers, no bands blaring. But you get a trophy and a big sandwich at the end.

All for $3.

The race is named after the now-deceased Frank Newman, who was a founding member of the Big Sky Wind Drinkers, Bozeman’s running club. He was a part of the Montana State University faculty for more than 40 years and served in the Korean War.

And he was always at the start and finish lines of this, his, race.

Every year.

Even after he was diagnosed with cancer.

The official name of the race is the Frank Newman Spring Marathon/Relay. Most runners use the race as a two- or four-person relay or just run it as a half marathon. Since the race annually occurs on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, I usually didn’t have time to do more than the first half of the race, which begins at 8 a.m. The state high school track meets are always that weekend, so I’d run the first half of the race, tag off to a friend, then travel to Butte or Helena or Great Falls, depending on where the meet was.

But in 2011, I wanted to go the distance. Plus, the second half of the race is almost entirely downhill.

Another reason I wanted to run the marathon was because I wasn’t sure how long Frank was going to be with us. I had interviewed him for a story in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle prior year, and he told me how the cancer in his lungs wasn’t exactly going away.

Additionally, another Wind Drinkers founder, Ed Anacker, has recently died. Anacker was usually part of a four-person relay for the Newman race. Team name: Silver Snails.

I felt I needed to be a part of that year’s race since I actually had the time (I was sports editor then, so I farmed out the track meet that year. Hah!)

Per usual Frank, with his white hair and Montana State sweatshirt, was there for the start in 2011.

The weather was just about perfect. Sunny and cool. This being Montana, you could get hail, snow, rain, wind or 85 degrees.

Despite its no-frills feel, there are actually water stops. If you can call a couple of guys driving up ahead to hand out cups of water a “stop.” But thanks to a couple of Franks (Newman and Coles), I was able to hydrate.

The race goes over Bozeman Pass along Interstate 90 (actually on Frontage Road, which is right next to I-90). There are some nice downhills on the first half, but there is one hill that begins near Mile 12. A long one. Yeah, that’s Bozeman Pass.

At the top of the pass is the relay hand-off. It’s actually at 12.6 miles, but the crest is a perfect transition spot. After always running the first half, I was looking forward to all that downhill.

And down it went. The road continues into the town of Livingston and travels under the interstate before leading to the final two miles. I don’t think there was even a bump of uphill running the entire second half.

I was able to pass the lead relay runner on the last mile and was the first finisher at Sacagawea Park, where the awards ceremony is held near the Yellowstone River. Sure there were only 11 other marathon finishers, but it was a hoot to finish first.

Frank was there and handed out trophies to every finisher. Mine was gold and a bit bigger than the others. (You should have seen my daughter’s face when I walked into our living room with it.)

I’m so glad I ran that race. Not because of the result, but because Frank passed away that November. On 11/11/11.

I just looked up the race. It’s planned for May 28 this year.

And it still only costs $3.


Tim Dumas, who is recounting his previous marathons leading up to next week’s Boston Marathon, is a night editor for the Milford and MetroWest Daily News. Contact him at tdumas@wickedlocal.com.



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