MISSOULA – Missoula Marathon spectators cheer for every winner, whether they come from Polson, Corvallis or Kenya. But they haven’t celebrated a hometown win in the men’s full race since 2010. Mark Messmer hopes to change that this Sunday.
Messmer has considered himself a competitive runner for as long as he can remember, but the former Missoula Sentinel Spartan and Montana Grizzly feels he is just now catching his stride.
“I feel like I never reached my full potential in college, definitely not in high school,” said Messmer. “And it was always the longer the race the better, so moving up into the marathon was kind of just a natural progression for me.”
5Ks in high school and 10Ks in college didn’t fit his strengths. But the 25-year-old doesn’t want to make it sound like 26.2 miles is easy.
“Every (marathon) I’ve done at some point the race you think to yourself, ‘Why am I doing this? This is so painful. I’m never going to do it again,’” laughed Messmer. “And then you finish and like 15-20 minutes later you’re like, ‘That was awesome. When is the next one?’”
Messmer didn’t run a full marathon until after he graduated from UM in 2015. He won the Governor’s Cup last year in 2:33 and set a course record (1:09) in the half-marathon at the Helena race last month. He chose the shorter distance to stay fresh for the race he really wants.
Messmer took fourth in 2016 and second last year in the Missoula Marathon. And the hometown product noticed he has become a fan favorite while running near the front.
“I hear a lot more, ‘Go Marks’ than they do, which is awesome,” said Messmer. “Because 26 miles is a long ways to go, no matter how many times you do it.”
Messmer knows it will be painful and difficult to reach his goal on Sunday, but he admits to dreaming of a possible victorious scene in downtown Missoula.
“I’ve always kind of been obsessed with the banner you run through,” said Messmer. “I want that. I know they give that to the winner. That’s something since a little kid I’ve thought about.”
The 12th annual Missoula Marathon starts in Frenchtown at 6 a.m. Sunday morning. Messmer and the top runners will finish before 8:30 a.m. on Higgins Avenue.