Over the past year I’ve realized I know some really awesome people doing some really awesome things in life. I’m also a firm believer we all have a story to tell so I am putting the two together. Meet my first awesome friend Melissa and her story of running the Bridger Ridge Run in Montana.
To start us off, What exactly is the Ridge Run to those of us not in the extreme running club?
The Bridger Ridge Run is a technical/mountain trail race in Bozeman, Montana held in August every year. The run covers just over 20 miles gaining 6,800 feet in elevation and loosing 9,500 feet in elevation. As far as mountain running goes, it’s a fairly famous race. Outdoor Magazine ranked it in the top 10 trail races in the world in 2012! The run summits several peaks in the Bridger Mountain Range and finishes at the bottom of the College “M” near downtown Bozeman. More information can be found on the Big Sky Winder Drinkers page (http://winddrinkers.org/ridge-run/) Also, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the run, last year a couple awesome local filmmakers documented the run. A sample of the film can be found on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Qo-La-zkPY) .
Why did you want to do the ridge run because it just sounds crazy to me? I would never sign up for this.
Due to its popularity, I’d heard of the run prior to moving to Bozeman in 2014. Even as a marathon runner I felt like that type of race was really out of my league. It wasn’t until I had lived here for a few months and spent countless days looking up at the ridge that I decided I’d give it a shot. My son was born in August 2014 and I decided a few weeks afterwards that I’d make the BRR my one year post pregnancy goal.
How do you sign up or get chosen to do the ridge run?
Because of the technical nature of the BRR, only 275 runners are chosen to run each year. There’s about a 50% acceptance rate with an average of 600-700 applications each year. In early April the lottery opens up for the race and runners have 10 days to sign up and write a 200 essay on why they want to run the BRR. After that a committee of volunteers hand select those who have been chosen and accepted runners get an e-mail in mid-May. There’s some strategy to getting in, it helps to have a killer essay, have volunteered in the local community, run the BRR before, or applied and not gotten in. Previous winners of the BRR are automatically given a spot. Much like the HardRock 100, it can take a few tries even for the best of runners. I was lucky enough to get in on my first application. I wrote about my son and my goal to return to racing to celebrate his first birthday.
What was your biggest fear going into the run? I get nervous before a 5k so this would scare me for a week straight I’m sure.
My biggest fear going into the run was falling. There are normally a few injuries each year and I had taken my fair share of tumbles during training. I’d done each section of the course a couple of times and felt comfortable with the terrain but anything can happen up there. When you are on the ridge of a mountain there is really nowhere to hide.
I’m pretty sure falling would be at the top of my list of fears too. What were the toughest parts of the run?
The two toughest sections for me were Ross Pass and Saddle Peak. Overall the climbing in those sections were just really tough. At one point on Ross I was literally on my hands and knees. Saddle peak for me was really a mental struggle. I knew once I got there I was only about 6 -7 miles from the finish but it still felt really far away. Saddle Peak is also very exposed to the elements.
Speaking of the elements, how do you prepare for such unpredictable weather?
Anything can happen on the ridge. Some years its 100 degrees, some years it snows. This year we had to fight the smoke from some local forest fires burning in the Northwest. I spent a lot of time checking the weather and also ran prepared. I ran the race with small hydration backpack designed for running and help an extra shirt, a hat, sunscreen, and gloves with me.
What kept you going through the run with it being so isolated on a mountain ridge?
I had a lot of different motivations during the run. I knew my son would be at the finish and I really wanted to get there and make him proud. I was so blessed with all the awesome support from other runners, the amazing race staff and volunteers who hike water to the tops of these peaks. Most of the volunteers are former or hopeful runners and there is a large sense of community. I formed some unspoken bonds with runners along the way since we were enduring it together and even made a few friends! I also have to give a huge shout out to my friends. Several of them hiked up to the ridge line and ran some miles with me. I’ve never been so happy to see them in my whole life. It was a huge motivator and came at a time in the race when I really wanted to stop. I kept telling them that I couldn’t do it and they really supported me and pulled me through.
Last question. Are you going to run it again?
I will absolutely apply next year. I’d also like to run the Bangtail 38k which is the month before the Ridge Run. I thought it was a great experience and I’d love to get faster and beat my time.
Isn’t Melissa just awesome?? I love her dearly and all her running that makes me feel lazy for only running 3 miles. If you know someone with a story to tell or you think is just an awesome person send them my way!