Earning Montana

How Outside Bozeman got me to run the Ridge Run.

“You have to write an essay,” said a local runner. We were talking about registering for the Ridge Run. She had been completely coherent up until this statement. I began to assess her for a stroke.

After refusing to raise her arms over her head or stick out her tongue, she explained that this wasn’t just any race. “They don’t let just anyone run it. You can’t buy your way into this one,” she said with pride. “You have to apply. They want to make sure you’re running it for the right reasons.”

At the time I didn’t know who this mythical omnipotent “they” was. I was new to town and it didn’t matter. I had no intention of running the ridge.

As time passed however, I felt the need to run it, partly to test my physical ability and partly to test my writing skills. This is what I came up with for my essay:

“When I moved to Bozeman and heard about the Ridge Run I said, ‘There is no fucking way I am ever running that. That’s crazy. What will it prove?’ This sentiment stayed with me until I read an article in Outside Bozeman magazine containing the declarative statement, ‘You have to earn Montana.’ That line began to gnaw at me.

I realized that running the ridge had not appealed to me because the training time, pain, and potential injury would interrupt the convenience and routine of my life. Mountain men like John Colter, Liver-Eatin’ Johnson, and Hugh Glass were not afforded the luxury of convenience. They lived in a rugged land that demanded they rise up and face its constant challenges. To this day the inhabitants of Montana do not shy away from outdoor adversity. They seek it and enjoy it.

I moved to Montana not just for the scenery, but for the adventures it holds. I want to run the ridge so I can look at the Bridgers with a sense of understanding and respect, not intimidation. I want to run the Ridge Run to honor all the John Colters, Liver-Eatin’ Johnsons, and Hugh Glasses who came before me. What will it prove? It will prove for that day that I earned Montana."

When I went to upload my entrance essay on the Wind Drinkers website, I found the English teacher who handles admissions was Scottish and has a gambling problem. The essay had to be whittled down to 50 words and it was a lottery system as well.

I am not sure if it was my writing skills or luck, but I was selected and ran the Ridge Run. No records were broken, but I did it. Thank you Outside Bozeman for continually educating, entertaining, and challenging us all to do more and be better.