The Montana Marathon

by Eric Sharpe

Montana’s premier running event, the Montana Marathon will be run September 17th in Billings.  First run in 1981 and sponsored by the Billings Gazette, the history of the event has seen a lot of changes, with the most recent being the YMCA taking on organizational responsibilities for the 2017 run.  In 1986, the Big Sky State Games took on the marathon for just a year, then a year without the marathon was followed by the YMCA taking up the mantle.  But with a change in leadership there in 2009, the Y dropped it.

The marathon’s future was doubtful until Cindy Thompson, avid runner and owner of Time Out Sports, picked it up “not knowing what we were doing and how much work it entailed.”   She partnered with Kate Novacovich in 2010 to organize the event until Vince Long took over from Kate four years ago.  The organizers have also provided participants with training along with help from the Yellowstone Rimrunner’s Club. Yellowstone Rim Runners also helped sponsor the event by extended their insurance coverage to cover it.

“It was pretty scary” trying to put it together admitted Thompson, “one year someone had knocked over all the porta-potties at the start line the evening before.”  Happily, no one was in them.  But despite the hiccups, the race has consistently seen 700-800 total runners for the event which includes a half-marathon and a 10k.  About 100 of those take on the challenge of the 26.2 mile trek.

People from all walks of life run in the marathon.  And from all other the country.  Some runners want to do a marathon in each state.  Some do even more. Jeff Bollman of Missoula ran his first, and his 100th marathon at Montana’s 26 mile, 386 yard event.  “Running, whether it is a training run or a race, is a very unique way to experience a place,” Bollman told the Billings Gazette in 2015.

Why run a marathon? According to Thompson, “It can be emotional crossing that finish line.  To cross that finish line – there’s no other feeling lie it.”  It is the ultimate running challenge.

But Thompon’s real wish is to see more community support for those taking on this monumental challenge.  “I wish we had more people out there cheering… that would be my dream to have both sides of the street lined with supporters the last few miles.”  The problem may simply have been a lack of funding to market and publicize the event.  That will likely change as the YMCA has devoted full time staff and resources to make this year’s run a great one.

The full marathon starts in the town of Molt.  The event also includes a half marathon and 10K and ends in Daylis Stadium south east side of Pioneer Park.

Billlings’ resident Todd Mays won the men’s marathon last year with a time of 3 hours and 2 minutes and Makiko Yamashita-Hunt, also from Billings was the women’s winner just 13 minutes behind

Training for a beginner needs to begin at least six-eight months. If you are already doing up to 5 miles a day then a twelve week prep could work according to Thompson.  If you’re up for it – get help!  Reach out the Yellowstone Rimrunner’s club for help! –


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