- 3 miles/5K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon, Virtual Race
- Road Race
- Event Website
After having run this race in-person back in 2019 and virtually in 2020-2021 due to COVID pandemic measures, it was a great to be able to return to Missoula this year to participate in the weekend events for the marathon. Not only was I looking forward to experience once again the scenery, course, hospitality, and overall atmosphere that the entire weekend offers, but this time I was also bringing my wife and son with me to share in the adventure. We drove to Missoula from our home in Texas and made this event a big part of our summer vacation trip.
Beer Run/Packet Pick-Up/Expo
Soon after checking into the AirBnB we rented for the weekend, we headed to Caras Park in downtown Missoula to participate in the first of the Big 3 marathon weekend events, the Beer Run. It is a 3.1 mile social/fun run around Missoula, with a course that crosses the Clark Fork River and then tours runners through a nice route along the University of Montana campus.
I took turns with my wife pushing my son's stroller as we jogged/walked the course before finishing and returning to Caras Park, where we joined the party and live entertainment, which included free beer for all finishers over 21, compliments of Big Sky Brewing Company. After enjoying a beer, we moved to the section of Caras Park that has a large, covered pavilion area for the Packet Pick-Up and Expo. There were tables there organized by last name of participants and well-staffed with volunteers who helped us get our race bibs easily and quickly. We then went to the adjacent set of tables and picked up our participant shirts for both the 5K on Saturday and the Half Marathon on Sunday. I loved their design and know that I'll be using them plenty in the future; they are both welcome additions to my collection.
There was plenty of race personnel on hand at the Expo; very friendly and helpful to answer any questions we had, such as specifics on the logistics for race morning, etc. I was also able to check out some of the merchandise being sold by vendors and liked most of it; had a hard time not buying everything in sight!
Tony Banovich 5k on Saturday morning
On Saturday morning we arrived at Caras Park at around 7:30am for the 8:00am Tony Banovich 5k. We easily found an available spot at the Caras Park parking lot and easily walk less than 5 minutes to the staring area. Just as we did Friday evening during the Beer Run, my wife and I took turns pushing our toddler in his stroller through the enjoyable course which runs along a nearby neighborhood, the University of Montana campus, and the trails along the Clark Fork River. It was an absolutely gorgeous and sunny morning to be outdoors and taking in the Missoula surroundings. There were many people like us who were making this a fun activity for the entire family to participate.
Farmer's market and afternoon BibRave Pros meetup
After finishing the 5k, we headed back to the Farmer's Market adjacent to Caras Park to eat breakfast and check out all that the local vendors had to offer. There was a great variety of food choices available and it was tough to decide. Everything we had was delicious and at reasonable prices. Our son also had a blast at the giant Castle playground there for over an hour, once again proving how this is truly a family-friendly event in so many ways.
The half marathon course is point-to-point, starting at an area with no parking available for participants or spectators, so the race provides buses that shuttle runners to the start. Bus loading times were from 4:15 a.m. to 5:15 a.m. at the Adams Center in the University of Montana campus. I was able to ride there with our AirBnB host who was also running the half marathon and was driving there with her friend. We boarded our bus at the Adams Center, at approximately 4:50 a.m. and arrived at the start shortly after 5:00 a.m.
Once at the starting area, I had plenty of time to go through my warmup routine, change to my race gear, and drop my gear bag at the trucks that collect them and take them back to the finish line.
The starting area was quite spacious to stretch and warm-up and had plenty of port-a-potties where I didn't notice very long lines on them at any one point.
The weather was perfect for racing at our 6:00 a.m. start, with temps in the low 50s with very little wind. It was all quite memorable with fireworks and a cannon blast, and we were off racing immediately after that. The course is mostly fairly flat or downhill, with the exception of a few gentle inclines over the last 5 miles or so. It is very runner-friendly and conducive to some fast times. Without making it my goal or stressing about it, I was able to beat my mark from my first time there 3 years ago by about a minute and a half: (2019-1:58:10 versus today-1:56:37). I was able to accomplish that by starting out nice and easy, not even checking my watch for pace and simply relying on perceived effort. Following that I was able to get into a good rhythm and zone by the middle miles and finish strong over the last 3-4. I truly had an enjoyable race from beginning to end. I felt that the support on course was outstanding with plenty of helpful and cheerful volunteers at the aid stations. Even though I was carrying my own hydration and nutrition, it appeared to me that the support tables were all well-stocked with both water and electrolyte drink (Powerade) as well as energy gels in some of the later miles of the race.
The finish line had plenty of volunteers handing out medals. There were large metal tubs on one of the sides full of ice and soda, water, and Powerade. After picking up my gear bag nearby, I headed to the adjacent Caras Park to stretch, take in my Hüma recovery smoothie, and enjoy the post-race festivities. There was plenty of room to find a spot, be comfortable, and relax. Before heading out, I went by an area where race photographers were taking pictures of finishers with their medals against a banner backdrop. This and all the other pictures taken by race photographers are included free with race registration, something which is an OUTSTANDING benefit that not many races do.
I feel this is a unique, high-quality race that is definitely worthy of its reputation. It is extremely well organized with easy-to-follow processes and systems that efficiently accommodate thousands of participants, but still has a small-town, friendly atmosphere and feeling to it from beginning to end. The town and surrounding areas are FULL of natural beauty just about everywhere you look, so it makes the trip there that much more enjoyable. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who hasn't had an opportunity to experience it yet.