by Eric Sharpe
A marathon is an epic competitive adventure which is why Montana Fitness Magazine is providing this second article on Montana’s epic event. The first article in the previous issue was more about the history of the Montana Marathon which was first run in 1981. This article is a celebration of the coming event being held in Billings September 17th of this year. Besides being a qualifier for the world renown Boston Marathon, the Montana Marathon is the premier running event in our region. Efforts to drive outreach nationally are in high gear as the Billings Family YMCA, which assumed leadership of the event this year, is making efforts to expand the event’s influence and impact on the running community, and on the state of Montana.
Since taking on the run, a dramatic increase in exposure of the event has been seen, driven by “Visit Billings” and the Billings’ Chamber of Commerce’s donation of eight thousand dollars for marketing. With an updated website and full court press on social media, the organizers began with a national outreach, working their way inward to more regional marketing. The result is an expanded running pool with competitor’s from 19 states including Florida, Hawaii, Maryland and Massachusetts (as of June 11th). Additionally, a new presence on social media has helped with an increase in Facebook “page likes” by 62% in a three month period. Exposure is vital to the success of such an event.
Marketing, along with the sheer logistics of the event, are the biggest challenges for organizers. Water stations, strategically located porta-pottys, medical staff ready to respond, and a host of other “to-do’s” make it a monumental challenge. But according to the Y’s Development Coordinator Kelly Lillie, “everything is running smoothly,” she confessed during an interview with MoFi with a little surprise on her face. “There are so many people who want to help. The community is really coming together.”
Community is the key to such an event and Kim Kaiser, the Y’s CEO, fully understands the importance of it. “We want it to be more than a Marathon, we want it to be a community health event. We hope it can inspire and motivate health seekers.” But they also hope it will bring a new level of community support and involvement outside the boundaries of the course.
In some cases, these runners are facing the challenge of a life time. Having the community support them is important which is why the Marathon organizers are trying to make this run a true “event.” Kaiser adds, “We want it to become a community pride event.” With that, the Marathon will feature a celebration party at the park with a band and fun activities to get people to come out whether they are running or not. They want every finisher to feel like a champion which is why the finish line is going to develop into a celebration. But it will take time to develop this culture. Kim said of the future, “We’re going to add baby steps to the event, expanding its scope by adding activities surrounding it.”
Those baby steps include a lot of pre-race activities as well. For the 13 weeks prior to the race, kids participating in the “Fun Run” will run about 2 miles each week, then run the final mile at the Marathon, crossing the same finish line as the marathoners. With this, in essence, the kids will have completed a full marathon. Jeff Galloway, Olympian, author, and regular contributor to Running Magazine, will be teaching a 3 hour running class the day before the Marathon. Billings Clinic and the YMCA is offering an eight week course on strength & conditioning training along with injury prevention information and exercises for runners of every level.
The Marathon will also feature a half marathon, relay, and a 10k run. The full marathon course, which is USA Track and Field certified, starts in the town of Molt, travelling 16 miles southeast down Molt Road into Billings. After a short run along Rimrock Road, the course heads south down 46th street before cutting east into the city, meandering along Poly, Colton, and Parkhill roads before finishing in Daylis Stadium on the south east side of Pioneer Park.
Montana Fitness Magazine, by the way, is now a proud sponsor of the Montana Marathon. Cool. And with that, we hope to help organizers get the community involved in celebrating and honoring the competitors of the remarkable Montana Marathon (see our poster contest ad page 6!). For more information, please visit: http://www.montanamarathon.org