This was the 10th Annual Missoula Marathon and Half Marathon, with a fun Beer Run Friday night and 5k on Saturday.
There were two opportunities to meet with Elite Runners, Jeff Galloway and Michael Wardian during the race weekend.
There were weekly (if not more) newsletters sent out via email to keep you up to date, as well as active postings and replies on Facebook. The website was also stocked with all the right information, including direction to Visit Destination Missoula website for discounts on hotels, cars, and even whitewater rafting!
Flying into Missoula can be a little difficult, if not just plain expensive. I flew out of Orlando via Denver, with a 5 hour layover and a red eye flight back to Florida. Unfortunately both flights out of Denver were delayed making this a very long and exhausting journey. I flew on Frontier for the very first time and I will have to say it was the cleanest, but also most uncomfortable flight I have ever taken. I feel like the seats, that do not recline, where made out of thin hard plastic. I knew going into it they are a discount airline that nickel and dime you for everything, including a seat (yes, you do not get a seat assignment unless you pay) as well as carry on bags. But what drew the line was just how uncomfortable the seat was itself.
With this being a summer race, and wanting to save money, I decided to rough it and camp at the KOA campground, located conveniently between the airport and historic downtown. This was a nice 'city' campground with all the amenities... coverings for tent sites, bath house, breakfast and ice cream social, pool, and even wifi inside my tent!
The Expo was held both Friday and Saturday at a park located along the river in Historic Downtown. Saturday was perfectly combined with the Farmers Market making it a fun morning of meeting locals, tasting fresh produce and baked goods. To top that off, there were 2 more markets (1 artisan and another farmers) located just walking distance on the opposite side of downtown! It was a beautiful afternoon to be outside!
The Expo itself had the official race merchandise, a running store merchandise, and a couple other vendors selling and also giving away goodies (I scored free sunglasses and a small towel!)
There was also an opportunity to write on a motivational board. (not sure where this ended up going?)
Jeff Galloway had a table set up to speak and take pictures with him as well as purchase one of his books.
This is a point to point "flat"course starting in the countryside and running back to downtown. Missoula is located approximately 3,000 feet above sea level, and there are definitely some rolling hills, especially a good downhill in the beginning, but nothing too difficult.
Parking was extremely easy at the University where we boarded a shuttle. There were multiple shuttles where they even separated the full and half marathon runners.
The shuttle dropped us off in a parking lot with over an hour to spare. It was quite chilly and no shelter for warmth. Good thing I had my mylar blanket with me. There were plenty of port potties with little wait. To my surprise fireworks started going off! Turns out, they lit fireworks every 5 minutes until the start time! I found it very odd and not being much of a morning person, a bit annoying. There wasn't any entertainment as we waited, except a very loud speaker who hollered off interesting stats of the race and participants.
There was a hill to walk up and down to do a warm up laps as we waited for the sun to rise so we could start the race.
The weeks leading to race day, temps were predicted for mid 80s. However, the week of the race, a cold front headed our way, dropping the temps into the 50s with a high chance of rain. Luckily it remained overcast and ended up being perfect summer running conditions! Although I feel some Northerners may have thought it was a bit warm, as they brought on sprinklers and water guns to cool people off!
Although the majority of the spectators were at the Finish Line, there was a fair amount to cheer us on, but they seemed to be the same ones over and over following the same runners. There were a lot of posters that were plastered to poles throughout the course to be our motivation.
The stations were well stocked with water and Poweraid and plenty of volunteers shouting out with their northern accents and 'You Betchas!' There were also gummy bears at multiple stops. Wet sponges were passed out and Gel was also provided.
We started on a downhill country road passing pastures of horses and cows. There were some musicians along the course including a violinist, drummer, rock and roll band, and a pianist in a field. A Marathon Maniac running his 50th state stopped at the pianist and belted out a song he wrote for this special occasion. We ran through a lot of neighborhoods and as we approached Downtown Missoula, you could see the infamous M on the mountain. I felt pretty good the entire course. It wasn't too hot nor too cold and the course wasn't too challenging. My times the past few months have been struggling, due to an overindulgence of taking time off from training. So I was happy with feeling good and maintaining a decent time.
The Finish Line was right over the bridge in Downtown, basically right where the packet pick up was. This was unfortunately also a good half mile to mile walk back to our cars at the University.
The set up of the Finish Area was a bit chaotic. The first thing you came across was the food, which was not lacking. There was pasta, quinoa, bagels, oranges, bananas, Fig Newtons, watermelon, popsicles. Unfortunately they put everything on separate small plates, so I walked away carrying at least 4 plates piled on top of each other.
Next was the Gear Trucks, which was mayhem. We were jammed packed trying to get to our UPS trucks; no order to the lines, and seemed like no order to the bags inside the trucks. I was soaked in sweat and now freezing and shivering trying to get my bag. Next up was a couple blocks walk to get to the beer. Thankfully there wasn't a line for that, but unfortunately you were only allowed one. I grabbed it and drank it on my long walk back to the car.
The gender specific shirt is cool, except for it being orange. I like the outline of the state, and the infamous moose with running shoes. The full marathon received a purple shirt.
I like the uniqueness to the medal being in the shape of the state. Kudos for thinking outside the box!
Free photos were provided, however, the photographer was only located at the Finish.
MAKE IT AN EXTENDED WEEKEND
Missoula has a great variety of local breweries and distilleries. Pick up your 'passport' for the Missoula Spirit and Ale Trail at any of the stops and test the local flavors including huckleberry. Montgomery was my favorite (I went twice!) with the entire bar full of fresh herbs that they mix into your unique concoctions! Stamp 9 breweries or 3 distilleries and receive a stainless steel glass or shot glass!
Looking for a warm up or recovery run? Just look for the M on the hill and you've found the M Trail which will get your heart racing and give you a scenic view of the city!
Looking for a day trip? Missoula is an easy 2 1/2 hour drive away from Glacier National Park. The scenic drive takes you by the beautiful Flathead Lake. Plan to stop at the Flathead Lake Brewery for lunch which overlooks the water. The drive takes you past several cherry farms along the lake, making it an experience you wont forget!
Once at the park, the Going to the Sun route is an easy drive straight across the park, but if you want to leave the driving to someone else, jump on one of the Red Bus Tours (which is not a typical bus, but instead a vintage 1930s bus with a roll back top!) Make sure you are up there around dawn or dusk to increase your chances of catching the wildlife! Campgrounds fill up fast, but no fret, there are several right outside the park as well, including Glacier Campground at the West Entrance and Glacier Under Canvas yurts just a little further!
Missoula is your gateway to embrace nature! Come run the countryside, wine and dine afterwards in a small historic downtown with big flavor and friendly crowds, then venture off to one of the most popular National Parks for recovery and gorgeous scenery!
Because of the overall weekend experience, I would recommend Missoula as a great race destination!
I am currently running a half marathon a month and also running a half marathon in each state all to show support and raise awareness for breast cancer via The Donna. Please consider showing your support by making a donation today! Www.donate.breastcancermarathon.com/2017-marathon/melissajohnson