(Editor’s note: Story by Jill Valley of KPAX news)

MISSOULA – Runners will hit the pavement a little sooner next summer after Missoula Marathon organizers opted to hold the event a couple of weeks earlier.

Why the change? Wildfires.

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The Run Wild Board of Directors and the Missoula Marathon Race Committee decided to move the 2019 event to Sunday, June 30, a move up from the traditional race day in mid-July.

But over the past years, wildfires in the region pumped so much smoke into the Missoula Valley that it put the runners’ health at risk and made for miserable runs. After consulting everyone from Destination Missoula to Missoula Parks and Rec to make sure there wasn’t a conflict, the board decided to schedule the Marathon the last weekend in June.

“The issue of wildfire smoke and fire season, it just seems to start earlier and earlier every year and last year the Lolo Peak fire started, right around, I think the week after the marathon, so we realized we kind of dodged a bullet there,” said race director Tony Banovich. “So we thought, ‘Well, it would be a shame to have all these people coming to town and then heave to send them away because we had wildfire smoke and it was hazardous to health.'”

Banovich says they plan to try the new schedule for a couple of years and see how it goes.

The dates for this year’s Missoula Marathon are still on for July 13-15, with the half and full marathons running on July 15.

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