This weekend marks the true beginning of the 2012 racing season in Big Sky Country. The time around St. Patrick's Day - together with marking the fact that spring is just around the corner - has turned into one of the buiest times of the year on the roads.
This weekend marks one of the classic St. Paddy's Day races, together with a up and coming fresh face.
The classic in question is Anaconda's AOH St. Patrick's Day 3 and 6 mile events. For 30 some years this race has been super competitive. And, when the conditions are right, it is also screaming fast. Over the last few years it has become the primary kick off race for the racer's in Butte and Helena. So, expect to see some performances from runners like Jesse Zentz, Pat Judge, Kyle Strode, Ray and Nicole Hunt and Michelle Bazanella.
In just it's 3rd year, Missoula's Run For The Luck Of It has already become a high quality event. Jimmy Grant ran 15:30ish last year; and, there have been some close, competitive women's race in both of the first two editions. The Missoula/Bitteroot/Ravalli/Seeley crowd loves their running - so, expect to see some big and fast fields.
Not to be forgotten is the smaller; but, still enjoyable March Meltdown in Polson. This gives the Flathead crowd a great rust-buster without having to travel too far from hom.
Next weekend is St. Paddy's Day proper - and will see several events celebrating the wearin' of the green. The Yellowstone Rim Runners have used their St. Patricks Day run as their annual club sign up run from 20+ years. It's also been the place where the runners in the east 1/2 of the state have gotten the season going. So, expect to see Alan King, Sarah Graves and Lisa Minnehan with their spring debuts.
The fun and festive Run To The Pub will take place in Bozeman the same day. This is as much recreational as competitive (what with the beer calling your name at the finish line); but, there have been some solid 1/2-marathon performances over the last couple of years.
Great Falls has it's own event - which supports the UGF XC teams.
So, if you are wanting to kick off your race season - you have no excuses. There races for virtually everyone in the state in the next two weekends - and there is probably one close to where you live.
From the Buzzard's perspective - this weekend sets an early stage for the runners and racers to start tracking for the rest of the year. I typically expect a few suprises out this weekend; but, a lot of the folks who you see perform well here are many of the same one's that you'll still see by MT Cup in Oct.
Since I've just started running again (coming of a stress fracgture in my right pinky toe) - I won't be up to racing. But, I will be announcing at the Run For The Luck Of It this Saturday in Missoula. Hope to see some of you there.
For the rest of you - enjoy the roads, tracks and trails
The Muddy Buzzard