The Lewis and Clark Marathon: Running Through History

The Lewis and Clark Marathon: Running Through History

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Edwards, Becky
The origins of the word marathon go back to Greece in 490 BC, when a messenger ran on foot from the town of Marathon all the way to Athens, to announce a victory over the Persians. I often think of that messenger, simply doing his job and feeling jubilant and proud of his country, eager to spread the good news. Running such a distance, he certainly had ample time to think about many things. However, I doubt that he ever would have imagined his simple act of running 26 miles, 385 yards would have such an impact on endurance athletes for thousands of years to come.

In our own neck of the woods, Lewis and Clark followed a course similar to that of the ancient envoy: performing their appointed duty in a quest greater than personal fame or recognition—in their case, a mission to discover new lands and opportunities for the fledgling U.S. of A. The Lewis and Clark Marathon, held every year in Bozeman, celebrates both the simple messenger from Greece and the fabled Lewis and Clark voyage through this very special sliver of America.

Now in it’s 6th year of existence, the Lewis and Clark marathon has a new race director and several exciting new features that make this local race hard to pass up. Tony Brendgard, owner of Fleet Feet in downtown Bozeman, has taken the reins after several years assisting original race director Brian Mastel. This year’s race offers prize money for the overall marathon finishers for men, women, and masters divisions. First place yields $300, second $200, and third limps away with $100. The master overall male and female winners will also receive $200 for a job well-done. This year’s race takes place on Sunday, September 25.

The course itself is not for the faint-hearted or inexperienced. It has a bit of a notorious reputation around town—full of hills and extremely challenging. Seasoned runner Beth Hickey has run the race twice, and has this advice for newcomers: “The biggest mistake marathoners make is to go out too fast from adrenaline, which is what I did my second time. The initial eight miles of uphill makes that mistake costly... it caused me to bonk at the end!” Hickey has run eight marathons over the last seven years, and says that the Lewis and Clark course is by far the most demanding. However, the gradient challenge is offset by running a race in your own hometown. The four mountain ranges visible from the route are familiar, and the course is lined with friends and family cheering you on. Hickey confirms the “hometown advantage” and the support of her friends. “My girlfriends sometimes do a relay so I have a running buddy keeping my head in the right place,” she says, “and I also like to post a friend near the end with a Coke for the last kick.” Brendgard says that even so, it can be a lonely race with only 150 or so marathon participants, “so you tend to get spread out”. However, the beautiful mountains, fresh air, and wide-open spaces make the time spent alone seem of little concern.

Starting on Jackson Creek Road, this most scenic of marathons takes you through a historic Lewis and Clark campsite in Kelly Canyon. It then follows the Linear Trail through Bozeman and winds around to finish at the track at MSU… just like in the Olympics! This year’s options include marathon, marathon relay, half marathon, 5K run/walk, and a one-mile kids’ run. Brendgard is expecting 500-600 total participants. You can register online at, or pick up a registration from at Dick Walter Subaru or Fleet Feet. Volunteers are needed, so contact Tony at Fleet Feet if interested.

For more information, visit the marathon website at, or call 587-1135. At the very least, come on out to cheer on the runners—all of the participants (including myself) will appreciate it.
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