Back-to-Back Challenges

Two classic races - the Whitefish Lake Run and the Glacier Challenge - converge on the same sweat-soaked weekend

By Tristan Scott
Participants in the Glacier Challenge. Beacon File Photo

For the first time ever, two of Whitefish’s most popular perennial races are converging on the same weekend, and while they’ll share similar eye-popping views of Whitefish Lake and the Flathead Valley, the events couldn’t be any more different.

This year, the Whitefish Lake Run and the Glacier Challenge will offer back-to-back feats of endurance when they commence June 27 and June 28, respectively. And while participants can surely sate their appetite for a physical challenge by competing in one or the other, true to Montana’s characteristic grit, some hearty souls will sign up for both.

A new element that will define the weekend is a two-day film festival that is free to participants and their family members in either race, with nine short films about trail running premiering on Saturday, and the classic family running film “Saint Ralph” showing Sunday. On both nights, the films begin at 7 p.m. at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish.

Entering its 13th installment, the Glacier Challenge has etched itself into the prominent canon of legacy sporting events in the Flathead Valley, offering participants a unique set of challenges that track along the Whitefish River and Whitefish Lake.

The beloved homegrown competition blends some of the valley’s most popular activities into a multi-sport relay race for individuals or teams. It consists of six legs of running, biking, canoeing, and kayaking across 40 miles of beautiful terrain in and around Whitefish. There is also a triathlon for those who want to do the first three legs, while teams can consist of up to seven members.

Afterward, a day of festivities kicks off at Riverside Park, with beer and food vendors, and tons of activities for the kids.

In its 38th year, the Whitefish Lake Run is a foot race with 10K and 5K options that annually draws hundreds of participants. The 5K starts and ends at Whitefish City Beach, while 10K runners are bused 6 miles up East Shore Drive to the start and finish at Whitefish City Beach.

Proceeds from the Glacier Challenge benefit the Flathead Youth Home, while leftover cash from the Whitefish Lake Run, sponsored by Sportsman & Ski Haus, will be funneled toward the same annual cause.

Flathead Beacon Running Club members receive a discount in both races.

In the Glacier Challenge, the road biking and kayaking stages were changed this year so that cyclists can avoid traffic lights. To that end, the kayaking stage will end at City Beach, and the road bike route will track all of the way to the end of East Lakeshore Drive and follow Delrey Road to its terminus, where bikers turnaround and ride to the Swift Creek Trailhead to transition to mountain bikers at the Whitefish Trail.

From there, mountain bikers will pedal the winding forested track toward Smith Lake before returning to the trailhead and transitioning to the second road bike phase, which returns to downtown.

Organizers in the Glacier Challenge are encouraging participants to don their favorite ensembles from the Summer of Love to color the long, strange course with peace.

The Whitefish Lake Run

Packet pick-up: Sportsman & Ski Haus in Whitefish on Friday, June 26, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Sign Up: sportsmanskihaus.com/event/whitefish-lake-run

The Course

10K Run

Bus Transportation: Saturday, June 27, 7 a.m. Depart from Whitefish City Beach

Start Time: 8 a.m.

Start/Finish Area: Start 6 miles up East lake Shore Drive and finish at Whitefish City Beach

Aid: Two aid stations with water and cups along the course

5K Run

Packet pick-up: Sportsman & Ski Haus in Whitefish on Friday, June 26, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Start Time: Saturday, June 27, 8 a.m.

Start/Finish Area: Whitefish City Beach

Aid: One aid stations with water and cups along the course

The Glacier Challenge

Location: Riverside Park

Packet pickup: Saturday, June 27, 2 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., O’Shaughnessy Center, Whitefish

Race date: June 28

Pre-race meeting: 7 a.m.

Race start: 7:30 a.m.

Sign up: theglacierchallenge.com

The Course


KM: 10.5

Miles: 6.55


KM: 3.2

Miles: 1.98

Road Bike #1

KM: 21.4

Miles: 13

Mtn. Bike

KM: 13.3

Miles: 8.26


KM: 6.48

Miles: 4.03

Run #2

KM: 4.08

Miles: 2.54