Race Reviews

Greater Yellowstone Adventures Series Race Reviews

The race reviews posted below are almost all for the Madison Marathon.  Since the inaugural race in 2008, there have been more than 700 runners who have completed the race.  Please take a look at their assessment of the Highest Road Marathon on Planet Earth.

Montana’s lesser-known Leadville!! (about: 2013)

Course: 5 Organization: 4 Fans: 4

K. K. from Oklahoma (10/2/13)

11-50 previous marathons | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

Beautiful course. Solid organization. Excellent volunteers. Good aid stations. Very difficult course! I’ve not seen any official ‘total climb’ number listed for this event but its a lotta thousand that’s all I know. And similar in many ways to leadville’s 26.2. Wow. Second half is really tough…even worse than Leadville. Plus, there’s no better place to be than Montana in July. Great weather, long days, and recreation everywhere!

**the worst thing about this marathon is just getting to the start line. Very pretty but it’s very remote! Leave early haha

Incredibly beautiful – incredibly difficult! (about: 2013)

Course: 5 Organization: 5 Fans: 4

Laine Anderson from Seattle, WA (9/22/13)

3 previous marathons | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

This was my first time running this race (full marathon), and I could not have asked for a better-organized, personable race experience. The race director, Sam, did a fantastic job welcoming many out-of-state runners to the charming town of Ennis, and to the state of Montana as a whole. The aid stations were well-stocked, and even though the website mentioned that aid stations were infrequent, I thought that the distance between aid stations was fine.

That said, this race is very difficult, especially after you run past the finish line for the half marathon to run an additional 6 1/2 miles out and 6 1/2 miles back to the marathon finish line. The scenery, the race staff and volunteers, and the sense of welcome and community from this race will definitely convince me to put myself through this brutal race again in the future!

Brutally difficult, but the most incredible views! (about: 2013)Course: 5 Organization: 5 Fans: 2

Travis Ross from South Carolina (8/7/13)

4-5 previous marathons | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

Unfortunately, because of some injury issues, I was not able to train for this race and had to drop from the full to the half. Nevertheless, my family and I centered a vacation to Montana from South Carolina around this race, and it was worth every penny. The most beautiful scenery ever! If you need spectator support, this is not your race, but in my opinion this area of the country is as close to heaven without actually being there. It took three hours from the meeting location in Ennis MT, and two separate bus rides to get to the start line, and that was totally cool! Coming from a sea level state, the altitude was a killer, so expect that. Drink plenty of fluids or look for a pounding headache about an hour into it. If I had a bigger budget I would run this race every year. The race director is extremely helpful as well, and adds a real personal touch to this event. Put this one on your bucket list for sure!

Toughest Marathon, but Worth it! (about: 2013)

Course: 4 Organization: 5 Fans: 1

Sandy Hugill from Arlington, VA (8/6/13)

11-50 previous marathons | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

Wow! The 2013 Madison Marathon outside Ennis, MT was the TOUGHEST of my 38 marathons and several halfs. Monument Ridge, a picturesque spot on the course, was labeled as being over 9500 feet. The altitude made it tough to breathe on hills, and there were a LOT of steep hills; I had to walk them all. I heard that many people finish this race 1.5 hours slower than their average time. I did it in 2 hours more than the previous day’s M.A.D. Marathon in Idaho Falls (yes, I ran 26.2 miles two days in a row&because I’m crazy). I was SO happy to be finished at Madison, but also SO glad I did it. The course was beautiful, running above the tree line in the mountains with the Big Sky above. Gorgeous sights of landscapes of hills, valleys, trees, cows at pasture. Sounds of…nothing but my own footsteps and cattle mooing. Smells of sage and wild flowers. Taste of dirt in my mouth. Feel of everything hurting!

Ive run many races and seen good and bad race organization. Madison’s organization was top-notch. To start, pre-race communication was excellent. I knew what to expect before, during and after the race. I felt like Sam the race director was very personable in reaching out to runners via email, and he and his crew were awesome in person. Race logistics were well-managed and course support was pretty good for a small, rustic race. Post-race, the food, drink and support from the race crew were excellent. My only suggestion: can you find a way to bring a couple port-a-potties up the mountain to place on the course at Monument Ridge and at the turnaround?

Will I run the Madison Marathon again? Probably not. I’m on a quest to run marathons in all 50 states, so it may be a while before I return to Montana. And even so, Madison was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I would recommend this race to others, but with the following caveat: it really is HARD. Do this if you would like a unique challenge, but do not expect it to be easy, do not expect to PR, do not expect a big city marathon experience – you won’t get it. What you will get is a gorgeous course, fabulous support and a day that you’ll always remember.

In the Mountains, in Montana, Fantastic (about: 2013)

Course: 4 Organization: 4 Fans: 3

R. K. from Billings, MT (7/31/13)

1 previous marathon | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

I got to run through Beautiful country, that I hadn’t been in before.

I do live in Montana, but it is so big, it’s impossible to explore all of it.

I did the 5K Saturday to get into town and get my bearings. Same people directing the Marathon, also. I was given wrong information on early Sunday Race packet pickup from one of them. I was told I couldn’t do that (I could have). At the Race packet pickup Saturday evening, I mentioned I would be at the shuttle bus at 5:30 AM. I was told the bus pulls out at 5:00 AM, so I would miss it if I came at 5:30. (wrong again). So other that cramping Saturday evening and Sunday early wake-up, everything else went fine. My first official Marathon. Gravel road is tough. At least one of the uphills is never-ending (mile 23).

Altitude was not an issue since I have been going into the high mountains for 40 years. At 8500′ to 9600′, oxygen is pretty much normal levels. Water stations every 3.25 miles. I run with a water bottle and they had enough to refill it. A few stations had bananas, peanut butter sandwiches, bug spray, and electrolyte drinks. Porta potty at the end of the half, and one at the 20 mile turn around spot (saved me!) Cattle will move out of your way if you whoop and flap your arms a little. Great bunch of people to run with, even the slowest were smiling and happy! It’s too soon to think I may do it again in the future. Let my feet quit hurting first. I’m glad I did it.

Hardest Road Marathon I’ve ever done (about: 2013)Course: 5 Organization: 4 Fans: 5

Craig Smith from Springfield, Illinois (7/30/13)

50+ previous marathons | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

The RD pretty much promises runners they will have a PW in this race. In my case, he was correct. The back half took me over an hour longer than the front. There isn’t 200 yards of flat in the entire race. All of this was as advertised. The course is beautiful, but very hilly. For example, I ran the front half in 2:37, but had a 16 minute mile in there somewhere. Lots of 50 staters and Maniacs. The altitude is a MAJOR factor. Highly recommended as long as you don’t care about running a bad time.

The most unbelievably awesome race of my life. (about: 2013)

Course: 5 Organization: 4 Fans: 5

Suzie Mauro from Clancy, Montana (7/30/13)

6-10 previous marathons | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

What an incredible experience. I had friends who had run this race before, and Sam’s emails got me all sorts of fired up, but there’s just no way to completely prepare for this experience. I’ve only been running for a year – I’ve run one full and this was my 5th half marathon. I loved every single step. I’ve never enjoyed another run – race or not – like I did this one. The ultimate personal challenge with the most amazing reward – knowing you have just conquered something that very few people ever will. The altitude didn’t bother me (I live in Montana at 5.000 feet), and I did walk some hills. I camped at Clover Meadows the night before and met some fabulous runner people. I’ll definitely be back for the full next year, and the year after that and the year after that….

I didn’t set a PW – actually ran this one faster than my very first half last summer. …but talk to me after I commit to the Full next year.

 hardest but very rewarding Marathon (about: 2012)

Course: 4 Organization: 5 Fans: 3

A. F. from Granbury, TX (9/3/12)

6-10 previous marathons | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

Course was beautiful

Organization was top notch

Spectators very minimal but for me that was okay, the few that were there were great

That was the toughest marathon I ever done but I would not of trade the experience for anything. Great people, scenery and what a great experience. Camping out all by myself at the National Forest near Black Butte Mountain Friday night was awesome and peaceful, Yellowstone was nice but that was the icing on the cake! I did this as a training run after doing a marathon 6 weeks prior( first time that close generally 16-18 weeks) and to embark on my first streak of 3 marathons in 85 days. I got my PW like the director forewarned us. To read my report go to runrunrace.com

This event was everything Sam promised! (about: 2012)

Course: 5 Organization: 4 Fans: 1

James Snell from Dallas, Texas (8/6/12)

11-50 previous marathons | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

This was, by far, the hardest physical undertaking of my life. At the 19.5 mile turnaround, I felt like I did at the Iwo Jima hill at Mile 26 of the Marine Corp Marathon (you can keep the hill, just get me to the Finish :)), only I had 6.5 miles to go – and they were the hardest miles on the course. I got the PW Sam promised me, I almost passed out at the Finish, but I also got the views and the sense of accomplishment. I was a tourist in a sea of crazy runners (50-staters, ultramarathoners), but I think I’ll visit them again next year!

If you wanna challenge yourself…sign up! (about: 2012)

Course: 5 Organization: 5 Fans: 2

T. B. from Columbus, IN (8/1/12)

50+ previous marathons | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

Can’t add a whole lot to others comments about the course: breath-taking (trying to sing ‘Then sings my soul…’ on Sunday at 9,500 feet not quite like it sounds in church :-)and butt-kicking. Practice taking downhills in you’re training, cuz you can hurt yourself trying to make up time for all the uphill climbs. I’d estimate about 3-4 miles of ‘relatively’ flat.

One thought: no cell phone service. NO WAY to let anybody at Ennis know you’re done, what bus you may be on, and when to try to rendezvous with you. Could they offer a radio at Clover Meadows to connect with someone in Ennis to keep family who stayed at 5600 feet abreast of your progress?

Ditto on the aid: it is what he offered – limited, but a cooler at 16.5 (and again at 22.5) that was empty was rough to see. The race monitor on his mountain bike was quick to respond when I pointed it out,thoughTHANK YOU! The APPLE at 19.3 turn aroundOMGcold on the lips was SO refreshing. Thank you to the angel who offered the fruit!

Logistics are monstrous for this event, but having seen what Sam has pulled off, dunno how else I’d do it. IF you want the scenery, the workout, the opportunity to run at 9500 feet, there’s gonna be some hurdles to jump. All in all a once in a lifetime workout (unless you come back for more)!

The Madison marathon is remarkable!! (about: 2012)

Course: 5 Organization: 5 Fans: 2

nina corelli from Missoula, MT (7/27/12)

1 previous marathon | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

I ran the half marathon in Ennis MT on July 22nd of 2012. It was amazing! It was hard!! I would recommend this run to anyone who wants to push themselves and prove they can do just about anything they put their mind to! almost all uphill, starting at about 9,200 feet, this course is breathtaking and gorgeous! A well groomed dirt road in the Gravelly Mountain Range….that’s all that needs to be said. It was Montana at it’s best! The small of Ennis comes alive in the summertime with fly fishing fanatics, mostly… but the runners that flock to the town for this race are something else. They really do make everyone come together, local or not. The pre-race dinner is well worth your time, the breakfast that Pic-A-Nic holds at about 5am for runners is BEYOND kind! The race director is one of the friendliest, down to earth people I have ever seen organizing this 5th annual event. CONGRATS for such a success!! I will be back in 2013 for sure!

Incredibly tough! Incredible scenery! (about: 2012)

Course: 5 Organization: 4 Fans: 2

David Weiss from Middleburg Heights, OH (7/27/12)

11-50 previous marathons | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

Decided to use this marathon as a foundation of a vacation out west; had a great vacation…..the scenic value of the course was certainly a memorable part of the trip!

My review of the race…

The Good…

Scenery…absolutely breathtaking! Mountain setting was stunning!

Race director’s frequent messages and enthusiasm… Got me pumped for the race!

…being able to pick up race number, pack morning of race…that is a huge plus for me

…love small races like this…there is a great sense of runner

… Impressed w dedication of those that put this race on; the logistics of wilderness setting up in the mountains must b very difficult!

-1/2 marathon runner who gave me one of her water bottles for the second half, a life saver!

-having host hotel, fan mountain inn, b a short walk to the shuttles to the start line, loved that!

-bug spray provided at start line, bugs weren’t as bad as I thought they’d b after reading other reviews, they were not really a problem for me

…did I mention the scenery??!!

…loved the granola bars at a couple of the aid stations

The bad…it is a loooong bus ride to the start line…. And the bus rattling on the uneven gravel roads was jaw rattling

Need more water stops! Race director very upfront about minimal support race; but w heat, altitude, frequent hydration is a must!…. And if there is only going to b a station every 3-3.5 miles, however it has to happen; there MUST b cold water there for the slower runners! (empty cooler 16.5 miles in when I was struggling was nearly spirit crushing….thank goodness an older gentleman in a pickup stopped shortly after that and asked if I needed water… Boy did I! He had coolers full of ice and cold water in his truck… The water was like an adrenaline shot!

The altitude…. I knew as a midwesterner, I’d have no way to truly prepare for it… But man, did it kick my butt, especially the second half!

The ugly….

My time; the combination of the altitude; constant steep hills ( up/down, up/down) uneven gravel roads as I foolishly ran this race w a foot injury, all led to my slowest time in a Marathon by a LONG way, but I am quite proud of finishing!

Directions to the finish line…. I attempted to provide my fiance w written directions, a drawn map… And she had a devil of a time getting to the finish line…. More road signs? More Madison marathon signs? A shuttle for spectators from ennis? I don’t know what the answer is…

The late start…. Thank goodness clouds came out late morning/early afternoon; cause otherwise the heat, added to altitude and minimal water stations woulda been brutal… 830 is a pretty late start; and it was delayed even later than that, closer to 845… I know logistics make it difficult, but even 730 or 8 start would help

Overall, even though I was very slow, injured, and physically beaten down by this race… It was a once in a lifetime experience…not many can say ‘hey, I did a road marathon at 9000 plus feet’. So while there were inperfections( the one most needing addressing is increasing hydration opportunities, in my opinion)…..this one was unforgettable!

What a unique challenge (about: 2012)

Course: 4 Organization: 5 Fans: 2

David Zajic from Alabama (7/26/12)

50+ previous marathons | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

Sam (RD) was great – probably the best communications prior to a marathon I’ve seen.
Pasta dinner the night before is well worth the $$.

It is a remote marathon and if you need fans to cheer you on this one is not for you. But if you want a challenge this is it.

The course is all gravel road but I run those for my long runs so I had no problems with them.
I took the previous write up seriously but did not have problems with bugs and my wife had extra water and gatorade for me (and others) on the course. I did use SPF 50 and it kept me from burning.

I recommend combining this race with a Yellowstone vacation – we really had a great time.

Also get reservations early – we stayed at the B&B and it was wonderful. But we know some folks had to drive in from Bozeman because they could not stay in Ennis.

In summary…. if you are a serious marathoner this is a must do but don’t expect a PR (you might even have a PW). RD is great and it is a beautiful location!

Highest Road Marathon – Hardest? (about: 2012)

Course: 5 Organization: 4 Fans: 5

z. z. from san diego, ca (7/25/12)

11-50 previous marathons | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

I’ve run Mt. Lemmon and Blue Ridge Marathons. Both claim to be ‘the hardest road marathons’. After running Madison, I know which marathon is hardest. But I won’t tell you – run it for yourself.

This is a memorable event. The views are amazing at every point. Up, down, up down. I saw dear and antelope. The cow crossing was a marathon first. The lack of oxygen adds the extra kick.

Event is well done. It takes an hour to get up to that remote location at high elevation. Can’t thank the volunteers enough for taking the time to put on a great show. Sam’s pre-event e-mails got me fired up for the start. Great memories!

The only thing I would change is my reservations to stay in Ennis a few more days. What a great place. Super friendly people. Hope to come back again soon.

Wimpy runners should avoid this marathon.

2nd most beautiful marathon (about: 2011)

Course: 5 Organization: 3 Fans: 1

B. S. from Baltimore (9/27/11)

50+ previous marathons | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

This was the 2nd most beautiful marathon coming in second to Mongolia. It was phenomenal.

We were lucky with no thunderstorms….an earlier start would much better even if logistics make much of it before dawn.

http://www.marathonguide.com/images/stars-2-5.gifBeyond beautiful; safety issues (about: 2011)

Course: 5 Organization: 1 Fans: 1

S. R. from Montana (8/10/11)

50+ previous marathons | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

This run joins Catalina, BigSur, and Choteau as the most beautiful of my rural runs: high on a ridge paralleling the Continental Divide. That said, altitude and sun exposure make for dehydrating/exposure issues that, I think, need and can be attended to. I don’t think it’s possible to carry enough water to compensate for what’s not offered (my Camelback lasted me 6 miles, and there was sufficient drink at the 5 stations only for a drink, not to replenish bottles); if each runner has a swag team it would create a car/bike/dust nightmare. Suggestions: Aid stations every 3 miles, with water, sports drink, sun lotion, and effective killer horse fly repellant. Water to both drink and pour over us; sports drink for the electrolytes lost at high altitude. This year we were promised 5 aid stops with water and sportsdrink; one had both, two had sports drink only, two had water only. Providing more stops would be as easy as the drive up the ridge, which can be done in any vehicle. And there are a host of areas to set up on this broad bare ridge. Choteau’s marathon, for example, has sponsors for each stop, with prizes awarded for the most appreciated. The literature about the run notes the difficulty of the final out and back: I think it’s bec. we’re dehydrated and overly sun exposed by then. So, bec. of the sun exposure, start the race early. Currently it’s a 9am start that this year was 9:20. Same day registration could be 1/2 hour, and EARLY to facilitate, say, a 7 or 8am start. That sun stays brutal by 10am… Third, ALL of the road offshots/junctions need to be CLEARLY marked. The organizers know the route: especially the one junction where the main road goes west and we go north, it’s not clear until it’s miles too late. Finally, the course is gorgeous, but it’s run on the main route from town. Once we started, all of the buses and cars dropping starters off passed the runners: dust and competition for the narrow dirt road. For the marathoners on the final up and back leg, we contended with all of the halfmarathoners and faster marathoners driving past us to get home. Dust, dust, dust. And frankly, it felt like just another weekend trying to enjoy my foot sport against weekend traffic. I do that all the time. I’d love to run this again, but I won’t until 1. I can run it early in the day; 2. water and sportsdrink are provided at least every 5 miles, preferably 3; I share the road with other runners and EMT only (why not use the offshoot roads for the run, instead of the main ridge drag?). In sum, gorgeous area, great spirit, please provide more safety and health assist.

fantastically unique course (about: 2011)

Course: 5 Organization: 4 Fans: 1

J. B. from United States (7/30/11)

6-10 previous marathons | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

I specifically did this marathon to see if I could do it. This is not a race for people needing a lot of support, spectators, etc. It is one of the toughest there is. The only thing I could add to others’ comments is, bring a wilderness or deep woods sportsmen grade bug spray – that may work on the horseflies. The bug spray they provided on the course and that I brought myself did not work, and in fact seem to attract the horseflies even more. I have about 20 huge bite marks/welts from these humongous horseflies that surrounded me in a tornado of bites throughout the course.

Beautiful, but hard (about: 2011)Course: 4 Organization: 5 Fans: 5

A. R. from Franklin, TN (7/30/11)

11-50 previous marathons | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

I signed up for this race after looking at the pictures from last year. The course is absolutely beautiful, with the most amazing views of the mountains and Big Sky country. Unfortunately, it was also a brutal course with the elevation and slow steady hills- both up and down- that lasted for miles. There was minimal support along the course, and very few spectators. If you are one who needs a lot of motivation along the course, don’t run this one. The race director was great, very helpful, and was very up front about the lack of support. We were warned repeatedly to bring everything you might need while running. This was the prettiest, but also the hardest race I’ve run. It was very well organized, the director was fantastic. Just be sure and heed the warning about the hard, hilly course with little support.

My favorite half-marathon! (about: 2010)

Course: 5 Organization: 4 Fans: 2

M. M. from West Yellowstone, MT (10/31/10)

4-5 previous marathons | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

Scenery – nothing in comparison. Course – dirt roads, few potholes. Spectators – few, thankfully. The few spectators I encountered actually made things (unwittingly, I’m sure) much more difficult, as they cruised alongside the runners in their cars, kicking up dust and forcing us into the ditch so they could pass. The hills were incredibly, incredibly challenging. I would advise camping the night before, in the small, primitive campground at the start. It was hot, very sunny and exposed (no shade), and the flies were BIG and swarming. But I can’t wait to come back to this race again!

Spectacular, Challenging, Community (about: 2010)

Course: 5 Organization: 4 Fans: 1

Rich Holmes from North Carolina, USA (8/31/10)

50+ previous marathons | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

Not many marathons in the world offer vistas as spectacular as these – jaw-droppingly gorgeous! And no road marathons in the US have this little oxygen due to elevation, but that’s OK as long as you recognize that you will have to go slower. And you’d be hard-pressed to find as friendly a community or as dedicated a set of volunteers and organizers. Come do this! You’ll be glad you did.

It’s all about the view and elevation (about: 2010)

Course: 5 Organization: 3 Fans: 1

T. H. from Montana (8/2/10)

6-10 previous marathons | 1 Madison Marathon (MT)

This run is very difficult to rate with stars because it’s unique. I’ve given the course 5 stars since they say exactly how the course is… very high, difficult and with incredible views. There’s no other course I’ve heard of that puts you on top of a mountain range and gives you a very decent gravel road to run on. If you’ve ever wanted to see 60-80 miles in any direction, this course delivers.

As a small town (very small), they’re still learning what is required to put on a high-elevation run. A lot of the times listed were pushed back and there were ample opportunities to speed things along. However, a participant needs to remember that all the race gear needs to be trucked up a long gravel road and placed above 9,000 feet – not an easy task, regardless of the location.

Spectators: One star. Not a lot of folks want to drive way the heck up into the mountains to watch a few folks burn themselves up on a road, and I understand. But this is the beauty of the race; as a participant, you must be mentally fit to run the longest marathon you’ve run. No music, no cheers – just you and your mind getting you through. The steady sound of your feet on a gravel road and meeting other racers on the course should be the most and best to expect. If you need a zillion folks to keep you motivated, stay home. If you enjoy the solemnity that only 9,500 feet, 26.2 miles and views of the Rocky Mountains can provide, sign up now.

Depending on the year you attend, make sure you know where and when there’s water and what sort of nutrition will be provided – and be prepared to bring extra of your own. Also, a small camera would be a good extra, as the photos you take you’ll be grateful for as you build upon you marathon career.

Annette French-Bearden

The Hardest Marathon I have ever Done!!!

When I registered for this race I received this confirmation letter stating the following:

“Get ready because on July 22 you’re going to be a part of something truly extraordinary. You might get sick. You might be sore for weeks afterwards. You might record a PW on the route. You might end up walking more than you’ve ever had to walk at this distance. But you know what? You won’t care because you’ll be participating in the highest road marathon in America (and probably the entire world). All running, and maybe even life as you know it, just won’t be the same after this experience.” Okay that was my first sign that I was in trouble. Why did I pick this one? I enjoyed running my last marathon that I decided wanted to run some marathons just for fun plus do all 50 states before I get out of my fifties as a result become a marathon manic. I have done Hawaii and Alaska, after this one in Montana I will have 43 more to go. First on hand to become a marathon manic I would need to do at least 3 marathons in 90days. Madison Montana was at the right time I thought being 6 weeks after my last marathon and cooler weather. Also Montana has got to be beautiful!

Bill Whipp, 69-years old, Ohio

Yours was my 299th and one I put up at the top!

Thanks you and all involved for making your race such a very special one. It was such a privilege to be allowed to participate in it. I know I am slow, being a walker, but I just love the challenge as well as the different locales. Yours was my 299th and one I put up at the top. I love the intimacy and the scenery was just spectacular. I did my first marathon at age 49 with a knee medically ready for replacement. Three years later I had it replaced. I still find it hard to believe I can do any at all, and truly treasure every one. I can’t count on my next one, whatever it is. I try to “empty the tank” every time as if it is my last, and get a little emotional when I finish. Although it is really fun to go to different places and do different marathons, I would really like to do yours again. Several things would affect that, including flights, etc. and it would also be a positive if I could do it as a double again, like this year with the Tin Cup. You are privileged to live in such a great place, although you can keep your winters. Thanks again to all. No promises, but would like to join you again.

Hope to be there next year. If not, I have great memories to last for my lifetime.

Bonnie Doerfler from Polson, MontanaMaster’s Marathon Women’s Champion 2012
“Montana at its’ best! ***** Star Marathon”
I recently participated in the Madison Marathon held in the Gravely Mountain Range of Montana. I am a Montana native and the experience of this marathon reaffirmed my belief that Montana IS the best! The small town of Ennis, Mt.. where race headquarters were located has charm beyond belief and the race director, volunteers and people of the community were friendly, helpful and so very nice and made me so very proud of the citizens of my home state. The marathon was a 5 star in my books. The beauty of the course was incredible, a sight everyone should see in their life time. The course was extremely challenging mainly because of the elevation. Sam, the race director explained its’ challenges very well, but it still kicked my back side from here to China. I highly recommend this marathon, you will not be disappointed.
P.S. I met some of the nicest runners on the shuttles and at the start of the race. I reconnected with a dear friend, who consequently won the woman’s division. I thank ALL of the runners and volunteers for their support.
Joni Van Arsdale, Montana

Thank you so much for all of your hard work and dedication to the Madison Marathon! It was fantastic!

I am really looking forward to next year. Thank you so much for helping me get my car from the early start to the finish. I don’t know how I would have rode my bike back to my car. What was I thinking? I’m so thankful I didn’t need to, or I would still be out there. I had to laugh because Frank (I’m not sure of his last name), at about mile 14 said that he didn’t think the route was difficult. I nearly died when he said that. At mile 20 or so, he changed his mind and said that he thought it was really hard. We all laughed. It was a really fun group of people that I had the pleasure of running with. Next year, please consider me (and my husband Kim) as volunteers. We could go early and help with set up, etc. Kim could man a water station, etc.

Thanks again, it was great!!!

Erica Eggleton, New York

Thanks so much for putting this together! This was my first half marathon and I couldn’t have picked a better or most memorable one to start with. Hope to see you again next year!

Charlie Williams

I really enjoyed the race, and thank you for having the initiative to create such a special race for all of us to partake in. I only have a few comments. Many of the races I have been to recently have the opportunity to have a short massage after the race, sometimes free and sometimes paid, and I think this really helps my recovery. Also, it would be great to get the results online sooner. I still don’t know with much certainty what my time was.

Thanks again for a great race! I can’t wait for next year.

Laura Hiebenthal, Colorado

Thank you for the wonderful race through your Promised Land. I know race directors put in hours and hours of work that go unnoticed and unappreciated. Thank you for everything. I agree that your volunteers were wonderful. They were so accomodating at the aid stations. I’d like to give a shout out to my bus driver as well (he was wearing a John Deere hat) as he was super friendly and helpful. The Madison Marathon is unlike any other marathon I’ve ever done (in a good way) and I hope I’ll be able to come back and run it again someday. Thanks for all your hard work, and I especially love that you encouraged us runners to send questions and that you always responded. Plus all the e-mails leading up to the race. I found all the extra information very helpful.
Brian Tarrant, Las Vegas, NV

Thank you again for your hospitality and tremendous race. It was such an amazing experience. Both my buddy Jason and I had a really good time. You are lucky to live in such a majestic place. I think that might be the first time I have ever used that word. LOL! You said were open to suggestions. I think you should have early bird registration for out-of-towners in January. Maybe open 20 spots for 20 days in January for all out-of-towners. This will give people like me a chance to take advantage of cheap flights. If it weren’t for the extremely cheap tickets from Allegiant we would have never taken the risk of buying airfare without having confirmation on the race. Well, just my two cents. Thank you again for the amazing race. It was well organized and a ton of fun. Unfortunately, I can’t do the August 12 race as I have guests in town that weekend. But I will think about the last race. Sounds like fun.

Take care and thank you,

Hammie and Faraz Farrokhi, South Dakota

Thanks so much for everything Sam! One of the best races we have ever done!! Please pass on our sincerest thanks to all the volunteers and supporters who make the marathon possible! WE LOVED IT!!

Dan Solera, Illinois

This race was a phenomenal experience for me. I went into it very jittery and nervous because I’ve never run above 5,000 feet. That first hill made me think that I would be out there for over three hours, gasping for air and eventually losing consciousness. But fortunately, that didn’t happen and I got into a pretty enjoyable groove shortly afterward. You asked for reviews eh? I believe I posted mine to the event’s Facebook page, but just in case,
It was my 25th state in my 50-states quest and it’s been one of my favorites so far. It was a truly majestic experience to run in such a pristine landscape. Sure, it took a while to get there, but that was just a necessary evil to enjoy the remote course. Brilliant planning and top-notch execution.
Mike England, Bozeman, MT

Great race, Sam. I like this half-marathon course better than the first year… harder, but more satisfying. Really enjoyed the camaraderie as well — I had great conversations with a few runners, as we shared time together, sometimes a mile, sometimes only a few hundred yards, before one of us pulled ahead. The last two miles, a marathoner paced me, took my mind off my pain and the heat and helped me ramp up my speed for the final push. I’ve always said that distance runners are crazy and this lot is especially so, but they’re as nice and friendly as they are insane. That means as much as, if not more than, everything else about this event. We made a weekend of it: swimming, camping, horseback riding, strolling downtown, et al. And it was all built around the race. Our girlfriends were so inspired that they now want to train for next year’s half. That’s two more runners and two more members of the nutjob fold. Neither of them would have ever considered running if nothing was chasing them, so that says a lot. You’ve created something very cool and I’m glad to be a part of it, both personally and professionally. Keep up the good work.

Vincent Ma, 50-Stater, San Jose, CA

I saw a runner friend from Alabama and another from Indiana, and it was always interesting to see Gary (Krugger) the winner. You are making this race better every year!

Kevin J. Sullivan, Andover, MA
Hi Sam – sorry for the delay in responding, but I have had a crazy week.  Fortunately or unfortunately I got so spend a few extra days in Montana because work needed me to be available so I could not get on a plane.  There are worst places to be stuck!  And since Bryan (my friend, came in 3rd) lives in Butte it made it easier/more comfortable. I thought the race was fantastic.  I had a great time.  I’ve run a lot of marathons and ultras all over the country and the Madison Marathon was definitely one of the best.  Great course, well organized (both pre, during and post-race – loved your emails) and it had a great “feel”.  Big enough to feel like a good race but small enough to feel not too big, if you know what I mean.

I think a sub 3 hour run on the course will be extremely tough but possible with the right person.  Very very few people could do it.  Maybe a handful in my mind.  I ran just over 1:37 through the half and felt good, but the 2nd half is WAY more difficult than the first and of course it was hotter by then.  Even if I had not run off course, I think I would have run the second half at least 5-10 minutes slower.  My goal after I ran miles 14 and 15 was to break 3:30 (yes, I had been thinking course record before that!) which I think was possible, although I’m not in great shape so who knows.  The heat got to me by mile 20 so I suffered the last 10k.  I’m just getting back into running after 2 years off (I ran Western States in 2009 and then faded back into real life – work, family etc).  I appreciate that you think I would have won – I do too, but I had such a great time it really doesn’t matter.

On who could do it?  One guy who I think could do it and might be up for it is Mike Wardian.  He’s a super fast guy who has run back to back 2:20 marathons on weekends (i.e. Saturday-Sunday) and has run probably 2 dozen marathons in the low 2:20’s.  He’s a freak of nature of sorts.  He just ran 2:17 at Grandma’s in Duluth and I think he’s in his early to mid 30’s – lives outside of DC in Virginia.  He also runs ultras (has won the 100k road championship, ran Marathon de Sables etc) so I think Madison might appeal to him.  I know him through a good friend of mine who runs the very popular ultra-website (inrunfar.com) and could make an intro.  I could also make the intro to inrunfar.com – which if you don’t know it is a super popular ultra/trail running site.  He would be able to give you GREAT exposure.  In fact, we might be able to swing it that I could write a review/race report that he might post.  Just let me know if you want the intro.  (I’m fairly well known in ultras – at least was a few years ago – because I came in 5th at Western States and 2nd at the Vermont 100, and have won a couple other ultras).

I think your best bet is to pay someone’s way out there to get them to do it.  Or, since you are tied to the MCEDC, you can offer up some free weekend resort lodging, skiing etc.  I think that type of thing might get some folks.  The money folks (i.e. Kenyans, elites etc) probably are not that interested in the type of course you offer – you want ultras guys.  To that end, you might even get irunfar.com to market the “come break 3 hours and win [x]” – just not sure because he really doesn’t do a lot of promo.  I could try to check with him.  If you want to pull in any national sponsors – shoe companies, socks, nutrition etc. I could help you with that but as you know that could change the feel of the race. I’d love to help you make more of the race.  It is a true jewel and so is the area.  Best destination race I’ve done.  Of course if other fast guys go then I’ll never win . . . .but I guess that’s ok :-)  (I’m off to Leadville next month – Madison was just supposed to be altitude training . . . ) Thanks again for a fantastic time.

BTW, the only recommendations I would make is definitely and earlier start (even if just 30 mins, but an hour would be even better), more/better swag (runners love that stuff) and find a way to get rid of the horse flies!!  Maybe a little more support/water in the second half.  And from a personal perspective, I would chalk the intersection where I made the wrong turn.  My own fault (and not the first time I’ve been leading a race and run off course . . . ) You should let folks know who is running 1/2, relay and full.  I figured it out by asking folks and looking at numbers but you should let folks know.  Maybe start 1/2 marathons after marathon. I would like that better, not sure about others.
The website is absolutely top notch. Oops, probably more than you wanted.
Joni Van Arsdale, Billings, MT

Thank you so much for a wonderful race. The panoramic scenery was breathtaking. My favorite part was running into Larry Macon around mile 20 and being able to spend time with him in those last 6 miles. We kept stopping to sit down since his back hurt. It was such a privilege for me to just talk to such a running icon. I will always remember the Madison Marathon with such delight. If I muster up the courage to do the race again, I will certainly be volunteering since it seems like you guys had fun.  Tell your parents that I especially liked them and how they sprayed me w/bug spray. It made a world of difference!  Your mom especially made me feel better.  The young man at the aid station at mile 13 made all the difference, too. I wanted to quit. He was so friendly and helpful. Thanks again to you Sam. You are one amazing guy for all you do. P.S. I also loved the sayings on the mile markers. I read every one and made a mental note of many.

Vincent Ma, San Jose, CA

Thank you for organizing the race – I had a great time! I should have taken your offer and stayed at your home, as the overnight acclimation didn’t seem to help after 10 yards, when we started climbing the first hill; and it was cold at night up on the hill. The most surprising aspect certainly was lack of a lot of hills at high elevation:-) Thank you for all the hard work! Cheers

Gerald Joest, Billings, MT

Fun times for sure. Any race that makes me puke, I love! LOL!

Rick Bachor, California
Thanks again Sam for the great race. This is my year for trying first races like this one. I have never run at altitude. Quite challenging but well worth the trip.
Scott McMurtrey, Pullman, WA
Thanks, Sam. You put on a good show. :)
Dee Metrick, Bozeman, MT

First of all, I want to let you know that you did a great job with the marathon.  I loved the course and the happy vibe and the weather.  Thanks, especially, for such great weather.

Cynthia Witman, Walla Walla, WA
Now this run is not just a dream and a vision, but a memory with glorious scenery behind my eyes. Thank you for putting this on. I’m thinking of Larry…no way could I run SLC today! As it was, I drove til 2am, luckily 1am Pacific Time, to make work today, so please pass on to Jeff once again that I’m grateful for his letting me be an early starter.

Brent Hildebrand, Frenchtown, MT
Thanks for putting on such a beautiful and memorable race! I really enjoyed talking to all the interesting runners and taking in the absolutely amazing scenery! The volunteers were all so friendly and helpful too. I do have a couple suggestions to make the race even better in the future.
The first is to have marathoners do the out & back portion of the race at the start. You would be able to have all runners start at the same place, but the marathoners run away from the finish, in the opposite direction as the halfers, to start the race. The marathoners would do a similar out and back turnaround, and then finish with the 1/2 marathon course. This would eliminate traffic congestion and dust inhalation for marathoners on the second half of the course while 1/2 marathoners are driving home. This reduction in car traffic on the course would also make support for struggling marathoners much easier. While I don’t know what the road looks like going 6.5 south of the starting line, I really think this would be a huge improvement. Especially running on a dirt road in the mountains, it was sometimes hard to give passing vehicles adequate room. The road shoulder was sometimes very soft or rocky, and some portions of the road were very dusty.

My other suggestion would be to do a little more for those last struggling runners. It was very clear from the description of the race that this race is limited support and most of us did fine, but I still felt so bad for those last runners still on the course. At mile 23 or so for me, I stopped to tip up the water cooler (which was almost empty) for a woman who was still on her way out to the turnaround and thus just at mile 16. We also gave water to the runner with the prosthesis when I was on my way home and he was still trudging along. I know this is really a man power issue so next year I’ll try to round up a few volunteers to help on race day!

Over all though, a great and memorable race. After an accident a few years ago I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to do anything like this again, and to run 26.2 on what feels like the top of the world, and have my daughter and family meet me at the end was so wonderful I can’t put it to words. Thanks for putting on such an amazing event. One last thing: who was the Wheaties box runner?

Bryan Bradshaw, Butte, MT
You did a great job on the race. I appreciate all of the hard work that you and the volunteers did.  It was a great experience.  Thanks again for putting on a great race.

Eric Klaphake, Bozeman, MT
Great race again, at least from the half-marathon point of view.

Two thoughts…
1). Overall, would be better to continue starting race earlier, I think especially for the marathoners. Most people would either camp or stay in Ennis to do it quite willingly I bet. Horse flies didn’t start swarming until about 10am for me. The sun is pretty brutal for the marathoners too. Usually sleep the night before is less important than the night before that anyways.

2). I felt really bad for the marathoners, in that leaving after the half-marathon, everyone drives past them, kicking up dust or sitting behind them making them nervous or needing to look behind them. Not sure how to change and maybe racers did not mind, but reconstructing their course to get them off the exit road might be something to consider. Might be hard though logistically for water stations. Just being picky!
AJ Chlebnik, West Yellowstone, MT

As always, this was a great race! The aid stations were well placed and organized, and with 200 people, the atmosphere was a lot of fun. I had a great run, once again beating my previous time for this course, which is always my goal. The Madison Half Marathon is a great challenge. I am always more tired and sore after this race than any other half marathon I do, and truthfully, it drains me more than most full marathons. Other runners are great, going out of their way to make sure those of us wearing headphones knew when traffic was coming. I had my headphones turned down, so I could hear it, but it was great to see the concern by other runners for the welfare of the group. It was a beautiful day as well! A couple suggestions for next year:

1. You mentioned that you might require those not camping to take the shuttle in the morning. I would suggest doing this. We drove ourselves, but certainly wouldn’t mind staying overnight in Ennis and taking the shuttle to help reduce traffic on the course. There seemed to be A LOT of traffic this year, especially for the poor marathoners. I was coughing up dust for several hours after the race! Is there any creative way to reduce it? Any other solution for the relay teams to get from point to point as well?

2. It would be awesome if the race could start on time. It was great to have an earlier start time, but some of the benefit was lost because we started 20 minutes late. (Although it was great to have the porta-potties and buses leave before the runners started!)

3. If there a way to allow past runners and local runners to sign up a little early (like a “grandfathered-in” policy)? It’s great that the race is getting so much recognition, but we’re a little worried that in a couple of years we won’t be able to get in to one of our favorite local races! Maybe provide a day of registration or a certain number of spots for previous runners?
The volunteers for this race were exceptional! Thanks to all of them from the West Yellowstone runners (at least the four of us I knew about) for their help and hard work! :-) Overall, the race was great! The volunteers were excellent and we had a lot of fun. Looking forward to seeing you next year at the 5th annual Madison Marathon! (Maybe I’ll do the full!)
Lora Tennant , Bozeman, MT

Thanks again for you and your crew’s hard work at putting together such a beautiful and amazing race.  What a way to introduce all those out-of-state folks to Montana.  I run races for their scenery and great people and the Madison Marathon had an abundance of both! Thanks again.  I had at great time and hopefully will be back to run the full marathon next year!
Rachael Baker, Wilson, WY
This was a wonderful event and will definitely be back.

David Summerfield, Bozeman, MT
Hi Sam – again, things went very smoothly – a great job.  In looking over the Ridge Run – I realize that you’ve done quite a job in getting this race to where it is this quickly.  The Ridge Run stayed very small the first many years.  So, the need for organization could grow very slowly.  You’ve had to go from 90 to 200 overnight!!   With time, you’ll be having people knocking on your door to help out (well, I know you do already – but you’ll be able to count on it).  My comments are based on a runner finishing in around 6 hours.

And something tells me you already know everything I’m about to say!

1.  Great course – but….it got really tricky after leaving Clover Meadows for the full marathoners who were in the back of the pack.  By then, all the 1/2 marathoners wanted to leave, and so there was a pretty steady line of traffic that had to pass us.  The road was dusty – hence lots of clouds of dust to swallow.  (and, many cars were also coming up the road, so they had to pass each other – and then there were the runners.)  What to do???

2.  I noticed that the horse flies didn’t start getting bad until near noon, and then they were increasingly offensive.  What to do???

The rest was great.  I carried my own gear/refreshments so I didn’t need much support.   The available water was always appreciated on a hot day.  I packed snow at every available snowfield under my hat, so it would melt down my face/neck.  That part was great.  Wheat Montana is also providing us with their high protein bread at our finish line – I question its usefulness at that point in the race.  And only peanut butter to put on it.  After 6 hours on the road, you need something cool and refreshing.  I’ll have to devise something else to do with the bread.  It IS good bread.  Maybe have butter, honey, something to get the mouth less dry.

I keep thinking about what would happen if you started the race as you did, but have the marathoners go south for those 6.7 extra miles, (so the 1st 1/2 marathon would be out-and-back,  and then end at Clover Meadows – wouldn’t that eliminate all the traffic issues (and dust issues)?  I know there wouldn’t be any “running together” as we do now).  Just a thought.  And I know it’s hard to start earlier, but it would really help the back of the packers to start before 9am.  You know, I’m always looking for different ways to do everything.  Greatly enjoyed the opportunity to do it – and I’ve written it up for the August Big Sky Wind Drinker newsletter.  I ran the first 5 miles with Tim from Salt Lake City – the amputee.  We jabbered all the way, and I got to help him out as I drove out at 3pm.  That guy is pretty tough.

Ryan Takeshita, Bozeman, MT

Thanks so much for putting together a fun and unique race.  Aside from the bugs it was a tremendously fun event.
I do have a few comments/improvements:

1)  There was not enough water/Gatorade at the aid stations.  I understand that given the number of people it is hard to anticipate the needs of everyone.  But I think the slower runners suffered for sure because there was not enough water.  I know that you said many times that this is a limited support race so the racers do need to be responsible for themselves.  But given the nature of the race (location and difficulty), it would be good in the future to error on the excessive side and making sure that the aid stations have ample water and are checked if they need refilling.

2)  Signs/direction for the finish line.  As I waited around at the Clover Meadows campground for my relay teammates to make their way through, I noticed some of the runners, both full and half marathon racers unsure as to where to go as they approached the staging area.  Since the finish line was actually up the road of the campground a little bit, many of the 1/2 runners didn’t see it from the main road and did not know right away to turn to finish.  Also some of the full marathoners were not sure if they were to continue on the road to complete the second half.  Having a simple sign or a volunteer directing them would have alleviated this.  Again, it is always a racer’s responsibility to know the course.  But certainly when you are tired and in a race, your mind is not as sharp as it should be as fatigue sets in.

3) Congestion at the finish line and staging area.  This bothered me the most because of safety concerns.  There were a lot of people around the staging area especially as the 1/2 marathoners were finishing up.  For the most part people were conscientious and stayed out of the way of the runners.  However there were some times when people were standing right in the middle of the main road and the road that lead up to the finish line causing a few runners to have to run around them.  Granted it was just a few extra yards and no one is coming in at an uncontrolled sprint, but as a racer a little frustrating.

Many dogs were not leashed and not even being watched by their owners.  I actually saw one runner accidentally run over someone’s dog because the dog ran in front of him.  Both dog and runner were okay, but it could have been worse.  I understand we are in a national forest and of course why would you have your dog on a leash out in nature.  But given the circumstances of the race.  I don’t think it would be unreasonable to request dog owners to keep the dog leashed if they are going to be in the staging area where there is a high concentration of people/activity.  If they do have their dog off the leash, then take them away from the finish line/staging area. There was ample room in the campground for dogs to run and be unleashed.

Creating a finishing chute.  Myself as well as most racers like to be able to sprint in and through the finish line.  There seemed to always be people standing within 5 yards of the finish line and when multiple runners finish near each other it makes it even worse.  Some races will have about 10-15 yards past the finish line that is flagged/roped off along the sides so that no one aside from race volunteers and racers are allowed in that area.

Overall I think you did a great job and certainly would like to do this race in the future.  I am on the planning committee for the Bozeman Tritons Triathlons that are taking place in Bozeman this weekend.  So I can appreciate the amount of work that you must have put in to make this race happen.  It is no small feat to be sure, given the difficult logistics that you face with the location of this race.  I wish you continued success and growth with the Madison Marathon.

Melissa Zemlicka, Bozeman, MT
Thanks for a wonderful race experience…I had a great day running.  Since I’ve returned home, however, my 6 month old puppy decided she really liked the race poster and proceeded to eat it.  Is there a way I could purchase another from you??  Thanks for your help and hard work. MVM was the most incredibly beautiful race I have ever done….you have a fan :)
Natalie Franz, Kennewick, WA
Hi there! Well, first of all, it is a really magnificently beautiful course, and a fun event–there was so much excitement, even with the small group it was very, well, exciting. In general I had a great time. Oh, and the poster and t-shirt were both awesome! Very nice. The photographers were better than I have usually experienced, also, nice mile markers–the elevation was particularly helpful and I did actually laugh out loud at some of the quotes. However, here are my complaints:

1. WAY too many cars on the course. I know you can’t stop people from driving on a public road, but you could certainly urge participants and their friends/family/supporters not to drive on the course unless they have to. I found the cars to be very disruptive, and one time I even rolled my ankle while I was getting out of the way (I didn’t notice it and was surprised). I get that the team marathoners needed to be shuttled and whatnot, but fewer cars would be better.

2. The thing with the bags and the busses–because it was pretty chilly at the campground but by the time we got to the starting line it was already pretty toasty, it would have been nice to be able to take a bag or something, wear a jacket, maybe eat some snacks on the way up. Other races with a similarly small group of participants and remote location have just gotten a small uhaul-type trailer and had people throw their bags into it, and then emptied the trailer near the finish line. That would be a nice addition I think.

3. Also, the “this is a low-support race” thing was a bit overdone, since there was water relatively often. I think knowing beforehand that the water stations were that often would have been helpful, since people didn’t really need to bring their own bottles and stuff.

4. I know there’s no way you’d be able to do anything about this, but a lot of the road was on a bit of a tilt. Running on a sideways road can really suck, and for me, it caused quite a bit of hip pain. So if for some reason a large pile of money falls on you, consider re-grading the road.

5. A bit more snacks at the finish! I saw bananas and oranges but they were all in bags, and no one was slicing them or anything. Some gatorade bottles, more fruit, some granola bars or something…would have been nice for sure.

6. In my exhaustion-stupor, the flagging at the parking area looked like the finish line. Consider putting a “keep going” sign with an arrow in the direction of the actual finish line. Thanks for a great event and good luck for next year!

David Wingard , Greenville, SC
Good morning, Sam. Thanks for the hard work and effort that you and all the volunteers put forth for your race. As you know, I did three marathons in three weeks: the Mad Marathon in Waitsfield, Vermont; the Half Voyageur Trail Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota; and, of course, the Madison. Vincent Ma also did these same three marathons-we met each other in Mn. I told a friend that it started tough in Vt. went to tougher in Mn., and toughest in Mt. I also had my fastest time in Mt. Don’t ask me to explain that one. The course was absolutely as beautiful as any I have run anywhere including Alaska and Hawaii. God did really good when He created Montana!
A few thoughts: If there could somehow be more food before, during, and after the race. When we board the bus in Ennis at 5:30, start the race around 9:00, and, for some of us who are slower, don’t finish until 2:00 or later, it makes for a very long day with nothing to refuel our bodies. The other thing is the cars on the road, especially after the half was over and the full runners had already passed Clover Meadows. They created so much dust and made it somewhat scary when some of them passed a little bit closer than I would have liked. I know there are a lot of restrictions as to what you can and can’t do. Perhaps changing the loop after Clover Meadows? For sure, not allowing support people to constantly ride the race course would help. Many of the same people passed me several times. Overall I would say that I enjoyed the race and the course very much and I would consider running this race again. I looked at the times and standing on the attachment and have one concern, the spelling of my name. I believe you have “Dave Wingaurd” and it should be David Wingard. If there is any way you can change this I would be grateful. I’m just worried that the 50 States Marathon Club may not recognize me and give me credit for Montana. That would obviously create a big problem for me later. Thanks again for a great race and for all your hard work.

Leah Tietz, Helena, MT
Great race! I was not a runner — my husband ran, my son volunteered and I was largely a spectator. In talking to husband and son, we do have the following recommendations for possible improvements to future races:

Do not have a water station on the inside corner right before the ½ finish.  Our suggestion is to set up a water station for the marathoners  just passed the Meadow turn (halfers don’t need water at this point- they need it just after the finish). It may also help to add  1 or 2 cones  about 20 and 10 yards before the Meadow turn/finish with signage directing halfers to the right /finish and marathoners to the left — we had numerous people unsure what way they were supposed to go at the Meadow turn/finish as this area was congested with people talking around the water cooler, spraying bug dope, trying to drink etc.

More water immediately available at each water station. We know the 13 mile station ran out of water several times and the volunteer encountered not-too-happy runners. When we were leaving, we notice the 16 mile (or so) station was empty too.  As we have seen in other races, a local water company (if Ennis has one?) could donate 5-gallon jugs and dispensing racks for each station – plan to overstock and return any unopened bottles rather than risk running out.  This may be much easier than filling the coolers. We also encourage you to contact Hammer Nutrition to donate endurance drink (A Whitefish, MT company that is a great supporter of Montana events!) rather than using Gatorade.  At a minimum adequate water supply and cup supply is needed in future years.

Barb Cestero, Bozeman, MT
Thanks for all your hard work and organization that went into the marathon. No small feat given the remoteness of the location.  Hope you get a well earned break at some point during the remainder of the summer.  I had a great time and enjoyed the beauty of the run enormously.

In terms of feedback, I think the only thing I’d suggest is to consider starting the marathon earlier (say 8 am) and staggering the start of the half-marathon (they could start an hour later). I know that would mean a super early start for the shuttle from Ennis but it can get pretty dang hot up there at the end of July. The advantage of staggering the marathon and the half-marathon is that it might cut down a bit on the traffic during the second half of the marathon when all the half-marathoners leave. For me that was the only bummer of the race as there was a lot of folks leaving — something that probably wasn’t an issue when there were less than 100 people running the whole thing. Anyway, thanks for putting on such a great, challenging event.  Hope you have a great August. All the best.

Rich Holmes – Durham, North Carolina
For any chronic marathoners (or not), this one should be on your “Must Do” list. It would be very enjoyable if only for the warm community support, the amiable race director and his family, the pasta dinner in an open park with laid back, relaxing settings the night before. But it is the incredible vistas that you will remember. (I actually started singing the opening to “The Sound of Music” on cresting one hill, for those of you old enough to remember the Alps panorama that opens that movie.) And the high altitude and steep grades result in you not just feeling like “you’ve completed another marathon” but will experience the “earned it” glow that was always there at the end of one’s early marathons!
Review posted on Active.com on 7/27/2010 (two days after the race). Rated 5 stars out of 5.

John Thomson – St. Maries, Idaho
On the awesome meter this race is a 10. The views alone are more than worth the entry fee. I did the half and am impressed by the runners that did the whole. This was a tuff race with the uphills at altitude. The downhills are hard on the toenails. It was fun and awesome because it was hard but mostly because of the view. You run on the top of the world and can see forever. So beautiful. I will run this race for the rest of my life. I camped at Clover Meadows the night before and the few of us that were there had a good evening. I highly recommend this race. Sam the race director did a very good job. The prerace meal was in a great setting and enjoyable

Review posted on Active.com on 7/27/2010 (on day after the race). Rated 5 stars out of 5.

Melissa Doudna – Bozeman, Montana
I thought it was a fabulous run, I had a blast! There were plenty of updates the week before the race so I felt well-informed. The vibe created by the director, volunteers, and other runners was also really great. My only suggestion would be to take the 6:30am shuttle from Ennis to the finish for a brief period of time and in order to start the race an hour earlier if possible to help eliminate the “support team of horseflies” (Dr. E. K.). I’m super excited to run it again next year in order to beat my time from this year!

Review posted on Active.com on 7/27/2010 (on day after the race). Rated 5 stars out of 5.

Dr. Eric Klaphake – Bozeman, Montana
Great half marathon, full marathon looked brutal, but people running those are a different breed anyways. Scenery spectacular, people running it were great, very informal, but professional. Do wear bug spray with Deet for the run, as the horseflies serve as your support team, keeping you going when you want to quit. Keep moving and no problems. Also remember often above treeline, so harsh sun exposure with later start (10am), wear sunscreen, hats, etc…. Not the best race for shirtless running. Great tailwind which would be normal this time of year, but if crosswind or headwind (as with turnaround for marathon), could be a factor. Great downhills and flats to compensate for the oxygen/energy crushing uphills, which many, especially low-landers, decided to walk–not that there was anything wrong with that. Wild flowers and long views awe-inspiring. Much slower than typical races, winning half time was 1:38 and he’s a great runner!

Review posted on Active.com on 7/27/2010 (on day after the race). Rated 5 stars out of 5.
Steve Rumley – Helena, Montana
Thanks for another great race!  The amount of work that you put in was obvious and amazing.  The MM must really be catching on because this is the first year the motel manager asked me, quite enthusiastically, if I was doing “The Race”  Before, they just asked where I was going fishing! I think the Marathon really kicked some peoples’ butts.  They’ll do that, I guess.  Poor Eric – he was experiencing a hellacious case of cramps when we stopped to see if he was OK at Mile 23.  I hope he made it in OK. Thanks, again. See you next year!

Steve Rumley, Half Marathon Participant in 2008 & 2009 – Helena, MT

The organizers believe this is the highest road marathon in the Northwest. Whatever the case, it must be right up there (pun intended), lying between 8500 and 9500 feet in elevation. Hoping to make this an annual event and a destination marathon, they did well with the inaugural (2008) race: good pre-race communication with (very useful!) directions to the start and mile-by-mile course descriptions; late weather updates, mile markers on the course and temporary signage on race morning, marking the road up to the start. The event included a half marathon, a full marathon and a marathon relay. Both distances were out and back, with the HM turning around at the marathon midpoint, at around 9350 ft in elevation. Plenty of rolling hills happened on the way out so it wasn’t all just downhill on the way back. There were door prizes, shirts, an after-race BBQ and beer.
The race lies entirely along a narrow, gravel or dirt Forest Service road in the Gravelly Range, southwest of Ennis, MT, amidst beauty rivaling that of the Beartooth. Runners shared the course with a few motorists and four-wheelers, all of whom were polite and respectful of runners’ safety. It is also possible that runners might share the road with moose, cattle, bears and other wildlife. Aid stations were provided along the route. The race begins at Clover Meadows campground, so camping is an alternative to making the long, bumpy drive on the morning of race day.
Given the race’s exposed topography, it’s probably a safe bet that the wind –which pounded runners pretty good –blows hard most of the time. Ironically, though the draw of the event is its high elevation, the wind will likely be the real challenge. In any case, this is a unique and beautiful race that’s worth the trip.

Amy Young, Female Full Marathon Runner-up in 2009 – Nashville, Tennesse
This race was a first rate event. The race director, Sam, was extremely hospitable and helpful and was always quick to answer questions. The volunteers and other participants were also wonderful. The race course is challenging, with its ever present hills, you feel like you are constantly either climbing up a hill or coasting down one, but the beauty and the serenity of the mountains make it all worth it. I would recommend this race to anyone! But particularly those who are looking for a true running experience, and not just a race experience. Thanks again to Sam and all the volunteers and other participants. I had a great time and look forward to seeing this race becoming more and more popular in the future (which I have no doubt that it will).

Mimi Anson, Half Marathon Participant in 2009 – Sheridan, Montana

This was a great event. We took the whole family and attempted to walk 1/2 of it… well, we made it to mile 6. That is how it goes with four children under the age of 7 it is a beautiful area, and I must say, we had a really good time. We are looking forward to coming back next year!!!

Bev Johnston, Half Marathon Participant in 2009 – Bozeman, MT

That was truly the most beautiful views I’ve seen! Wish I would have been able to train for this but didn’t find out until right before… glad I got the chance to give it a try and will be back next year for sure. Sam- you are awesome! Thanks for helping me when I was lost. Also thanks to the nice guy on the 4 wheeler and also the master griller team who made those yummy burgers.

Aubrey Curtis, Men’s Half Marathon Champion in 2008 – Great Falls, MT

The inaugural Madison Marathon in Ennis, Montana was a great event. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to return to defend my title in the half marathon event (2009) due to a conflict with another race…I sure wish I could make it this year. The course was challenging due to the high elevation, headwinds, and the steady climb on the way out. However, you reaped the rewards once you reached the turn-around and had mostly downhill and tailwinds on the way back. You probably won’t have a PR at this race due to the terrain, but you will enjoy the scenery and have a good workout. The race directors are great folks, and the race had a very “down home” vibe to it…really enjoyed my afternoon with all the racers.

Sus Bristow, Half Marathon Participant in 2008 – Helena, Montana

To all of you lucky enough to be running the Madison Marathon for the second time, I wish you good luck. To all of you running it for the first time, get ready for one of the most beautiful runs you will ever take. I am sorry that I will not be able to make it this year. I was sorry to hear that the date had been changed to August. I will miss the exhilaration I felt after finishing this one. It felt like a real accomplishment. Something about the challenge of the terrain along with the beauty of the surrounding area made it a very special run for me. Anyway have a great run and enjoy.

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