Bozeman Goals

Jessica Tuttle's picture

Joining the local running community.

When you move to a state as big and as vast as Montana from the small and cozy state of Vermont, things are going to feel a bit overwhelming. The gigantic sky above your head for one thing, not to mention roads that stretch out forever and wild animals on the trail that could potentially eat you for lunch. I know just about every nook and cranny of Vermont, and to not know these mountain ranges and all the land that lies in between them was intimidating. To know so few people was also intimidating. This past summer, however, a year after arriving, I reached a turning point. Some of this had to do with the passing of time, but a huge portion of it had to do with running, and the people that make up the Bozeman running community.

Bozeman Running, Trail Running Bozeman

When I pulled into town last year with my life in my car, I had just spent four months in a recliner recovering from foot surgery... on both feet. It was a long period of catching up on Netflix, doing puzzles, and planning a bold move out west. Needless to say, I wasn’t able to run or hike for my first summer or fall in Bozeman. Every injured runner knows how hard it is to “sit on the bench.” It's especially hard when you land in a beautiful place like this with an endless amount of new trails to explore. I never went up to the Bridgers or even skied the Ridge.

When 2015 arrived, I got that January urge to sign up for all the spring and summer races I possibly could. I ran a few of the Wednesday night races with the Big Sky Wind Drinkers, which were a great way to meet friends and feel part of a regular local activity bringing people together. I also got to know the folks at the Bozeman Running Company and was thrilled to learn about their summer 5k brewery runs. These are loads of fun, a good mid-week break, and another great way to meet people while combining two of my favorite things: running and beer. At the Sweet Pea Festival, I got to run down Main Street in the pouring rain with my six-year-old nephew for his first one-mile race. In this priceless moment, Bozeman pulled on my heartstrings a little more and I was grateful for such a strong community event like that.

Before I knew it, my dream of running the Ridge Run had come true. The Wind Drinkers held two training runs up on the ridge before the race, which were momentous for me. Not only did I meet wonderful people and bond with them because we were all in the experience together, but I overcame some serious phobias I had with heights and exposure. My first time up there involved some mild hyperventilating, a sort of low crawling/running form I invented, and NOT looking around or down. I could not have done those runs without the patient and humorous friends I made up there along the way. I loved everything about the Ridge Run: the lead up, the race, and the aftermath. What truly made this experience so special was the community connection I felt. Between Bozeman Running Company and their events, talking to Ridge Run alums, the Big Sky Wind Drinkers, and the people I met training, I was finally feeling like a part of Bozeman. I felt a sense of connection.

Running the Ridge, Bridger Mountains, Bozeman Running

Racing is never solely about a personal best time; it’s about the entire experience in general. It’s about the people, the spectators, what a race does for the community, and sharing an accomplishment with others. There is a special spirit in the air on top of the Bridgers. While I ran up there on race day, I felt grateful for so many things. One of them being my amazing foot doctor back in Vermont who gave me the new and improved feet to run with, and another was for the opportunity to have this truly local experience.

Bridger Mountains, Bridger Ridge Run, Bozeman Running

Somewhere in between ridge miles, I thought about how my life was unfolding in Bozeman. It hadn't gone as planned, but it was turning out better than I ever imagined. Mentally exhausted from such a transitional year, I ran happy and relieved to finally feel comfortable with my new life in Montana and embrace all things Bozeman. I was happy to bond with those mountains I had once felt so intimidated by. I want to express my gratitude for the running clubs here and all the fun people in this town who work hard to make sure events in Bozeman are a total success. I want to acknowledge the importance of putting yourself outside of your comfort zone in situations that promote meeting others and provide a warm feeling of connection to a place. I look forward to upcoming fall running events before the much-anticipated snow flies. If I can tackle the ridge with running sneakers, it’s probably time to do it on skis.

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