Last year, Brian Miller and Gabe Dillon decided to organize a race to celebrate the completion of the Foy’s to Blacktail Trail. When planning began, the trails had only recently been completed, and since they did not know just how long it would take the runners to finish a marathon along the trail’s roller-coaster profile, they decided it would be best to start before dawn.
Despite the early race start, two-dozen trail runners participated and all of them finished — even one who announced plans to hike the entire distance.
A year later, Miller and Dillon are preparing for the second annual Foy’s to Blacktail Trail Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 22 — and this time it’s starting at a more reasonable hour.
The Foy’s to Blacktail event is one of two major trail running races this fall. On the weekend of Oct. 5-6, the Whitefish Legacy Run will feature a 50K mountain run on Saturday and half marathon, 10K, 5K and family fun runs on Sunday to benefit the Whitefish Trail. The Whitefish run will also celebrate the completion of a new section of trail, says Whitefish Legacy Partners Program Director Margosia Jadkowski.
The 50K race is a new addition to the annual event. The race will begin at Depot Park and utilize the Whitefish Trail in Haskill Basin to connect with Whitefish Mountain Resort’s cross-country trails. From the village, runners will then use a combination of bike trails and hiking trails to climb to the summit of Big Mountain before heading all the way back down to town. Sunday’s races will begin and end at the Whitefish Bike Retreat. Jadkowski says both venues showcase some of the best recreational land Northwest Montana has to offer.
“As folks are out running these races, they get to experience some fantastic land that we’ve protected,” she says.
Jadkowski says she hopes by expanding the event into a full weekend of racing that it will grow in the future.
“We really want to grow it into an all-weekend celebration,” she says. “There’s going to be something for everyone.”
Whitefish Credit Union, Whitefish Bike Retreat, Step Ahead Foot and Ankle Clinic, Hammer Nutrition and Great Northwest Oktoberfest are all sponsors of the Whitefish Legacy Run.
Back at Blacktail, Miller and Dillon are expecting twice the number of racers this year as they had last year. As of last week, there were 41 people signed up to run, and Dillon says he thinks 50 would be the perfect number. He’s confident they can hit it. Racers will meet at Herron Park and take a bus to Lakeside for the start of the race. The run ends back at Herron. The race is capped at 100 people, and all participants will be required to have bear spray just in case they run into an aggressive bruin.
Dillon says he’s proud to be playing a role in the Flathead’s growing trail running race scene and that the Whitefish and Blacktail events are the perfect way to get in one more long run before the snow flies.
“It’s really cool to see (these events) flourish,” he says. “We’re excited.”
For more information about either race, visit https://www.whitefishlegacy.org/event/whitefish-trail-run/ or https://www.ftbtraces.com/marathon.