Whitefish Marathon Recap

I have to give a huge shout out to the team who put on the Whitefish Marathon (formerly Two Bear Marathon) this year because they made it look like it went off without a hitch. Here are my thoughts and reflections from race day now that the soreness in my legs has returned to an acceptable level. 

The week leading up to the race I was feeling so much pressure to come away with a win. I know my patients and friends were all just stating a vote of confidence for me, but there is a lot of time during a marathon for things to go wrong. And you never know who is going to show up on race day – you can only do your best to show up for yourself. 

Race week was rough and tumble for me in terms of emotions. I knew I was not feeling as rested/recovered as I had hoped coming off of a PR at the Boston Marathon with a relatively short turnaround time, but I just kept telling myself that it didn’t matter because my dad was going to be there and I always race hard for him. Less than a week out from race day, I received a picture from my dad of a Covid test reading positive. He would not be getting on a plane that week, and I would be canceling all reservations for his birthday and post-race celebrations that I had so been looking forward to. I know this may sound selfish, and I want to include that my dad felt achy and tired and all the normal flu things but he is doing fine, and yes I am eternally grateful for his health. Regardless, it took me a while and a few pity-parties to come to terms with the fact that he would not be coming to Montana for the weekend and would not be there (physically) at the finish line. My pre-race anxiety was amplified by this turn of events, and I was shying away from something I had put so much work and months of my time and sweat into. There were even moments I considered telling people I had Covid so I would not have to run. 

Friday before the race, I was seriously considering not showing up for packet pickup or to work at the booth I had reserved as advertising and outreach for Physio Whitefish.  Reluctantly, I got myself a cold brew coffee and a ride (also thanks to Covid, due to back-log of car bumpers and an ill-timed turkey crossing the road, I was primarily walking and biking everywhere for the 2 weeks leading up to the race including in the rain/hail, but that’s a whole different side story) to set up my table and raffle tickets for a running consult. As the afternoon went by I saw so many friends, clients, and new faces all with the same mix of eager and nervous emotions picking up their race bibs and taking advantage of any free swag they could find. I slowly felt more like a part of the community that I have been working so hard to feel accepted in, and felt a shift towards actually wanting to make it to the start line the next morning. 

It was chilly on race morning, but at least the sun was out and spirits were high. I was concerned about all 3 races (5k, half, and full marathon) starting together, but at least for me the start situation went very smoothly. It was energizing and dare I say fun to be at the front of the pack with so many clients and friends as we took off down 2nd street in downtown Whitefish. 

The first half of the race is a nice loop course with some rolling hills and beautiful views of the mountains. I have run these roads so many times and the familiarity of it all helped me settle in fairly quickly. The spectators on their bikes at various points, the horses running along the fence lines, and groups of half marathoners to follow made the initial 13.1 fly by. 

The second half of the race was a different story. I made it through the neighborhoods and past the Whitefish lodge following my new pace bike friend and mentally was prepared to climb what I thought was the main hill of the course. Once I made it to the top of that, I realized I was drastically wrong. I was lulled into a false sense of confidence by that same hometown familiarity and didn’t study the course as closely as I should have, because the turn around point was much further out (and up many more hills) than I had thought by glancing at the map. Biggest mistake of the day – do your race research friends! Despite the climb being far tougher than I anticipated, seeing one of the high schoolers I coach at an aid station and getting a drive by cheering section from a patient in his convertible got me through. On the way back, so many familiar faces and waves from friends and those I had met at the expo helped ease the downhill pain in my quads and focus on making it to the finish. 

Everyone complains about going up and over the viaduct at mile 26, but honestly I barely noticed it. Not because I wasn’t hurting at that point, but because I could see the finish line and hear the music and the announcer calling me in. I was lucky because I had friends waiting on me to finish, but I feel bad for most of the marathoners because all the races starting at the same time means most people have left by the time we make it back. The crowds definitely would have been better had the marathoners gotten to start earlier. Overall, I still had a blast and felt the event was well put on, and can’t complain about coming home with a win despite my time not being what I was hoping for. 

I love small town marathons. I love them even more when I have the hometown crowd on my team. Moving away from my family and adjusting to living in Whitefish has been a more difficult transition for me than anyone could really know. Despite the trail access and fulfilling my dream of skiing before work, making it in a resort town even with a doctorate degree often feels impossible. Hanging out in the park after finishing was the most I have ever felt accepted and part of this community since moving here a year ago, and made me feel like there is a chance it could finally be home. There is so much magic in the marathon and the running community, and I am grateful to be finding it here in Montana. 

It’s worth the run just to drink out of this ridiculous trophy.

Ok, now to the stuff you all actually want to hear. If you are considering running the Whitefish marathon, here is my breakdown:

The course is beautiful. You will be welcomed with mountain and lake views, but be prepared to climb hills in the second half. (***I have heard a rumor that they are changing the course next year, so this may not apply)

I hope they change the starting situation as the races grow. Not only to create a little more space at the start line, but so more people are finishing around the same time so the post-race party is more fun. Most people had left by the time I finished, and I wish the marathon would have gone off an hour earlier. 

Even though the course isn’t closed, you get to run on many of the paved bike trails around Whitefish which is a lovely break from the road. I never felt like I was about to be run over by a giant truck and trailer like I did in Bozeman, and there are no surprise gravel sections. 

Study. The. Course. Not just so the hills don’t catch you off guard, but there are a lot of windy turns especially in the second half. Be prepared to run the tangents and save yourself some time. 

Someone needs to bother Montana Coffee Traders to get a booth set up. Pre and post race coffee would have been a game changer. 

Thank you to the race crew for finding someone last minute to be a pace bike for the lead woman after the half marathoners broke off. In Bozeman only the lead male got one, and I was very alone for most of the second half of the race and it was not fun. Having a bike out there to follow especially on the blind corners of the winding road was SO appreciated. 

That’s all I have for now. Thanks for following along for my ramblings and happy running!