Runners from around the country and the world will descend on the Gravelly Mountains this weekend for the fifth annual Madison Marathon, the highest road elevation marathon run in the nation.
Sam Korsmoe, executive director for the Madison County Economic Development Council is the race organizer and, like last year, is expecting the race to sell out. However, a few spots are still open for Sunday’s race.
“I’d be surprised if we didn’t sell out by the weekend,” Korsmoe said.
He is still looking for a volunteer emergency medical technician or other medical staff to help with the race, but he’s optimistic on that front too.
So far, racers have signed up from 25 different states and at least three different countries, Korsmoe said.
The race offers a full marathon, half marathon and team relay marathon events.
The course is along the Gravelly Range Road south of Ennis. The marathon crosses monument ridge at its highest elevation of nearly 9,600 feet.
The elevation makes this one of the most demanding road marathons racers will ever have a chance to run, Korsmoe said.
And it’ brings out some die hard runners.
For instance, Larry Macon from Texas holds the Guinness Book of World Records mark for most marathons run in a year at 113. He ran the Madison Marathon last year and will be back again this year.
As will Vincent Ma, a San Jose, Calif. runner who is hoping to run 100 marathons this year. He’s flying into Bozeman Saturday night after running a marathon in Iowa Saturday morning.
Ma humbly says he’s on the extreme end of marathoners. To run 100 in a year, you pretty much have to be in two marathons somewhere every weekend.
He ran the Madison Marathon last year and was impressed both by the Ennis community and the beauty of the Gravelly Mountains.
“What other opportunities will bring you to visiting a place like Ennis, Montana where you’ll see beautiful scenery while running the race?” Ma said. “Those are really the things I cherish the most.”
But running at high elevations really cuts into your time. Ma generally runs a marathon in about four hours, but last year he finished the Madison Marathon in 5:23. It was a pretty good time, he felt.
“I don’t anticipate to run much faster than that,” he said.
Most racers see at least a 30-minute addition to their average time in the Madison Marathon. The men’s record time is 3:15 and the women’s record is 3:56.
Sunday’s race will begin at 8:30 a.m. on the Gravelly Range Road near the base of Black Butte Mountain. Race check in will be Saturday night at Peter T’s Park on Main Street in Ennis.
Korsmoe encourages people who are interested to sign up for the last few vacancies. Also, locals can also walk the route just like any other runner.
For more information on the race, call Korsmoe at 682-5923. Or go to www.themadisonmarathon.com.