Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Sunday, September 13, 2009

2009 Two Bear Marathon

Sunday, September 13th, some friends and I took part in the fifth annual Two Bear Marathon in Whitefish, Montana. Unless you are a 50-stater, it's a bit far to travel for a marathon, no matter how nice, so I recommend planning (as we did) to come for a week and visit Glacier National Park in the days leading up to the race. You can visit after the race, but facilities begin to shut down for the winter in late-September, so be warned that you may not get to experience all of the park.

I'll stick to the race for this review. As mentioned, Two Bear Marathon is staged in Whitefish, Montana. It's a nice, resort community that has a downtown with a distinctly western theme. Interspersed with the stores are bars and a few "casinos." I did not go into the casinos, but I don't think they were the full-fledged variety like in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. They certainly weren't massive facilities.

The marathon is based at The Wave, a very upscale fitness facility in town. You are bussed to the start, but this is where you finish. Post-race, you have the opportunity to use their showers and a day pass is included in your packet should you feel like a workout, swim, etc... after the race. The start line is about fifteen minutes by bus and spectators have their own bus to and from the start area should they want to see their runner off.

The first part of the race feels a lot like the DuPont Forest Marathon. Wide, gravel roads through forest land with hills and curves. There are no waterfalls here, but there is a pond you run by and around. From time to time, you hit some single-track for a bit, then it's back to the wide roads. At one point, you exit the woods to find yourself facing two "bears" (volunteers dressed the part) which is good for a few laughs.

Eventually, you are back on the pavement, running past some large, very nice ranches. This is a rural area with very little traffic. As it leaves the ranches, you then find yourself running alongside Whitefish Lake for several miles. The hills continue to roll, but nothing too intimidating. The sun does come into play for the first time in this stretch as it is higher in the sky and there is less shade.

At about mile 21 or so, you turn off onto a greenway/bike path and run alongside the road. You're beginning to get back into town at this point, though the path takes you away from the downtown area.

The finish line is at The Wave and a fairly good crowd is there to greet you. The race director calls you by name. and hometown as you finish. Post-race food this year was bratwurst, watermelon, potato salad, and cookies, with an optional beer.

Two Bear Marathon

In all, it was agood race. Probably not one you will set a PR on, but one that makes a nice cap to a great weekend in Montana.

The shirt this year was a blue, long-sleeve technical shirt and they were giving away large water bottles as well. They served Heed and Hammer Gels at the aid stations (every two miles or so) and also had pretzels, water, and electrolyte pills.

All of the staff and volunteers were friendly and worked hard to ensure you had agood time.

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