Running Through Fire

A few months ago, my boyfriend got in touch with his fire-loving inner Neanderthal, and together they went out and purchased a wood stove for our house. To compliment his desire to improve our home, I found my way to Ace Hardware and bought 12 smoke detectors (two for each end of every room), six fire extinguishers, and a two-story fire escape ladder. Then I moved my running shoes to the entryway and the last painting my Grandmother created to the top of the stairs that face our front door. When my boyfriend asked about my art rearranging, I told him my aim was to “improve the décor.” At that point, he knew something was amiss. I am not one to care about matching pillows or towels; I know nothing about style, fashion, or interior design. The truth was I was planning an exit strategy.

I anticipated that if the house caught on fire (in the “worst-case scenario” world of my imagination), it would be because we didn’t notice when the wood stove burped flames onto the carpet or a beloved pet. Our ignorance of that event would indicate that we were on the second floor of our home, either sleeping soundly or eating pizza. Once the smoke detector started blaring, my plan was to jump out of bed or away from the kitchen table, seize my grandmother’s painting, grab my running shoes, and head to safety. When a phone appeared, I would immediately call 911 and then my best running buddy Jill.

We runners aren’t known for our tendencies towards moderation. The joy of the 5k leads to an attempt at a 10k. Mastering a 10k inspires an effort in the half marathon. The next thing we know, we have eked into the Bridger Ridge Run, registered for the Frank Newman marathon, and started planning the layers of clothes, varieties of fuel, and ounces of water to be used during training. Especially in the Bozeman climate, a long-distance run can begin at a crowded trailhead in oppressive heat and twist upward into icy wind, snow, and solitude. Women runners face the added danger of coming upon a group of lonely, aggressive male climbers. So we must be prepared and we’re safer when we stick together—whether we are facing burning logs in the bottom floor of our home or a 26.2-mile trot over the Bozeman pass. My first choice for company in any uphill battle is Jill.

Jill is one of those super-sexy, hardcore Bozeman women who has no idea how beautiful, wise, and fun she is. Jill also happens to have a master’s degree in counseling. Regular, non-running people have to pay her to have their dreams interpreted, to have their struggles simplified into a solution, or to receive praise for their efforts not to be a neurotic, uptight, flame-fearing nutball. Me? I don’t have to give Jill a penny for hours and hours of her time. I just have to commit to running a distance somewhere between ten and 26.2 miles. I imagine that in her kindness—if my house burned down—she would give me a break on the distance, especially if smoke had compromised my lungs. She also would greet me with, “You saved your running shoes. Hooray! Where do you want to go?” Then we would run, talk, and end up at the Nova Café, where she would compliment the fantastic smoky flavor in the marinade on her grilled Portobello sandwich. (True running buddies can make smoky flavors seem appealing even when one’s house has just burned down.)

After almost two years of friendship, if I were to add up the miles I’ve run with Jill, they would get us at least from Bozeman to Missoula. Other than our running experiences, we have hung out only three times. Still, our connection is deep and the kind that grows only from two Outside Bozeman chicks finding each other and setting the world on fire every time they get outside and play.

Whee, Not Wii
There's no better time than spring to get the kids outside–and April just happens to be Children & Nature Awareness Month, when communities across the country redouble their efforts to impart the importance of outdoor play for healthy childhood development. Gardening, local hikes, river clean-ups, nature walks, bird watching, biking, fishing, trail maintenance, habitat restoration... it's all part of the Let's GO! (Get Outside) program, a coordinated effort to reconnect children with nature, every day. For more information, visit or