Race Tests Bozeman’s Best

Hiking the M is a tradition around Bozeman. It is seen as a rite of passage and for many people it is their only experience of the Bridger Mountains. However, every year there are a select few individuals who call that windy descent of the M trail not a starting point, but a finish line.The Bridger Ridge Run will occur on Aug. 11. This event has the best runners in the Gallatin Valley licking their chops and questioning their physical prowess.

Spanning just under 20 miles and climbing 6,800 feet, the Ridge Run is not for the faint of heart. It tests a runner’s endurance, as well as their ability to handle changing terrain and weather conditions. The race is characterized by variable weather conditions, steep climbs and killer descents. Despite these hardships, there is no shortage of runners willing to take on the challenge of tackling Bozeman’s iconic mountain range.

There is a lottery system in place that limits the number of runners participating in the race. As of May 20, 424 prospective runners had entered, down from the 489 entries in 2011. The only people guaranteed entry into the race are the crazy individuals who have won it in previous years and wish to try their luck again.

The race traces its origins to 1985, when Ed Anacker and 24 other brave souls poured their blood, sweat and tears into the unforgiving terrain. Anacker, an avid trail runner, founded the race after running all over Western America. He decided that the Gallatin area needed a prestigious race of its own.

The route of the race is not an easy one. Starting at the trailhead above the Fairy Lake campground, a runner will run 2.2 miles to Sacagawea peak, 5.2 miles to Ross Pass, 3.2 miles to the Bridger check-in station, 5 miles to Baldy Mt., and 4.1 or 5 miles to the finish, depending on which route the runner chooses to take down the M trail to the finish.

Courtney Reichhardt ran the Ridge Run in 2011 and said it was a milestone — a fitting end to her tenure in Montana. “The main reason that I decided to run the Ridge Run last year was that I was moving to start graduate school at the end of the summer and running the Ridge seemed to be an appropriate way to say ‘goodbye’ to Montana.”

The Ridge Run is more than just a run; it is like a brand new Ferrari or a Nobel Peace Prize. For those lucky enough to survive its daunting trails, there is a lifetime achievement, a status symbol that can never be taken away. “The Ridge Run is a bit of a legend around the area, and the ridge just seemed to taunt me on my other runs,” said Reichhardt. No other runs in the area compare with the challenges the Ridge offers, so it seems fitting that the Gallatin’s best are lining up for their chance to take a shot at this behemoth of a ru