My First Time: Scott Creel

scott creel ridge running

Two decades of Ridge running.

Scott Creel does a lot of his transportation on two feet. Apart from running to and from work for the past 25 years—“No way I’m buying that parking pass!”—the MSU ecology professor has built an impressive competitive resume as well. Scott won the USA Track & Field Trail Championship (breaking the 50k trail record in the process) and made national teams four times—twice for the 100k world championships and twice for summer biathlon. He also raced Olympic trials for winter biathlon. But perhaps Scott’s most notable claim to fame, at least around these parts, is his dominance of the Bridger Ridge Run. Starting in 1998, he competed in the race 10 times—and won every single one of them (he still holds the course record for males aged 40-49: a blistering 3:06:30, set in 2007). When his kids turned turned 18, he ran it with them.

What was that first Ridge Run like, Scott?

So back in 1997, I was waaay out of shape after clanking around in a Land Rover for ten years doing wildlife research in Tanzania. My family and I moved here when I got a job at MSU and I quickly realized that it was an incredibly nice place to run. I often looked up at the Ridge while trotting around town, and vaguely started to think about giving it a go. Still just a faint shadow of the runner I’d been in college, I began to remember how much I enjoyed going hard. Hammering along the Sourdough trail after work, intervals on the MSU track, out-and-backs on the trails… I would finish with a brain full of good chemicals and just be happy.

The next summer, I headed up to Fairy Lake the evening before the 1998 Ridge Run with a tent and a thermos of coffee. I had not seen a lot of the trail, but was feeling optimistic enough to figure out split times for the course record and write them on my arm… It won’t happen if you don’t try, I thought.

ridge running scott creel

I was pretty sure that I was in decent shape and went to the starting line with a mixture of worry and confidence. That’s how it always is, at least for me. Standing there thinking, Dear God. Just fire the gun! I knew my training was good, but I had never run a race longer than a 10k, and most of the course was a mystery.

As soon as the gun went off, I knew things would be okay. After a little under a half-hour, I got water from the crew on Sacagawea, looked at the sun angling over the route, and thought, Time to go. There were a bunch of surprises along the way (who knew how hard the climb from Ross Pass is? From I-90, it looks tame) but I arrived at Baldy feeling good and, from there, started free-wheeling.


These days, I mainly go up the Bridgers to fly. Last summer, I went up Baldy with my paraglider and spent my birthday sleeping under the stars before flying off at dawn. Walking along the spine of the Ridge at sunset, I recognized every rock and found myself thinking “that one you step on, that one you hop past.” I’m back to a faint shadow of the runner I once was, but I carry a lot of good memories from racing it many times and then running it with my kids. 10/10. Would recommend.