Confessions of a Mediocre Athlete

Outdoor endeavors for the athletically challenged

Many Bozeman residents take athletic superiority for granted. From off-road triathlons to alpine climbs, they reach every level of intensity through training, perseverance, and natural ability.

But what about the rest of us? The folks who bike to work—when it's nice out. Who go on runs—but walk up the hills. Who hike mountains—and fall crossing the stream.


The rocks were slippery.

We too are citizens of this great outdoor Mecca, and being a mediocre athlete is nothing to be ashamed of. I've been adequate my whole life. I value fitness, but no matter my trailhead intentions, I end up jogging the downhills and shuffling up the switchbacks. Between running with a marathon-winning nutcase and working at a climbing gym where every other employee projects 5.13s, I’ve become accustomed to falling short while still meeting my own goals. No worries—the athletic world needs people who don't haul ass on the Bridger Ridge Run, and are simply excited to see the color of this year’s Run to the Pub shirt.

Tripping and tumbling down the trail is normal for mediocre athletes.

Here’s to the Bozemanites who don't crush 5.13s, train by running up Baldy, or get invited to intramural teams. You’re still out there getting your adventure on, so here are some fun, easier-grade endeavors to hit this summer:

Trail Running. South Cottonwood has it all: winding turns, rolling hills, and multiple creek crossings. When you get winded, take a break and sit by the water. The Southside Trails are home to our latest O/B contest, and have an array of choices for every fitness level. You can exercise and win stuff? What a deal.

Hiking. No matter how slow you hike, the trail up Storm Castle Peak hits the summit in only 2.5 miles. The trail can be steep, but the views are amazing and the trail dives in and out of trees. For a less-aggressive climb, Sypes Canyon climbs and descends three miles to the ridge—run down if you’re feeling baller. This is a popular mountain bike ride, so stay alert.

Storm Castle Peak. They waited 20 minutes before I got there. How kind.

Mountain Biking. New to the sport and don’t feel like tumbling over a cliff? The Main Street to the Mountains trail is a great way to gain confidence. The new Highland Glen section by the hospital is a gentle, rolling path with one easy switchback. Bozeman Creek is a pick-your-distance out-and-back, groomed wide enough for even uncoordinated riders to dodge hikers. 

Climbing. Head out to Bozeman Pass—even the approach is easy! After a flat 3/4 of a mile, you’ll hike up a short section and find yourself at Fat Man Wall, with a lovely array of pockety, 5.8-5.10 climbs right next to each other. Bear Canyon is another great intro to climbing, and has a spot to set up top ropes if no one in your group lead climbs. For new leaders, the left-hand wall has fun, featured 5.8s-5.10s. The routes are all short and well protected.

If you can look this terrible and still get to the top, you're doing fine.

If you take one thing away from this, it’s to embrace the average. No matter how slow you go, or how many times you stop and walk, you're still lapping everyone on the couch.