MISSOULA – The 12th annual Missoula Marathon ran Sunday morning. As always, the race gave fans plenty to cheer for.
At the start of the full marathon in Frenchtown, Missoula’s Jimmy Grant quickly moved to the front. The 2010 champ came in as the last Missoula man to win the event, at least until a couple hours later.
Sentinel High grad and former Montana Grizzly Mark Messmer pushed to the front by the midway point, and he held off another former champ, Polson’s Jason Delaney, by two minutes. Messmer checked off two career goals as he crossed the Higgins Avenue bridge, breaking the 2:30 barrier for the first time in 2:27:54, and winning his hometown race.
“It means a lot,” said Messmer. “I had so many friends and family out along the whole course cheering me on, and that in and of itself is awesome. And then to come across the bridge and hear, literally it felt like the whole town, erupt. It was just amazing.”
The women’s full marathon came down to two ladies. Four-time champion Trisha Drobeck of Missoula returned for her first marathon in two years after having her first kid, but all day she was chasing Keely Baker.
The Great Falls native and former Montana State Bobcat took second a year ago. This time she crossed the line a winner in 2:51:49, the third-fastest time in the history of the event.
“One of my No. 1 goals was to win the Missoula Marathon,” said Baker. “I think it’s one of the biggest in the Northwest. They have a lot of great runners that come here and have run Olympic Trials and stuff, so it’s really cool to get and compete with those guys and challenge myself.”
In the half-marathon, a western Montana native added to her already incredible career resume. Bigfork’s Makena Morley won for a second straight year. This time the current University of Colorado runner set a course record by two seconds when she finished in 1:15:52.
“I kind of knew what it was, but I didn’t know what the pace exactly was,” said Morley about chasing the record. “So I was just kind of running with some guys. I went out a little fast, because, ‘Woohoo, this is fun, you know?’ Then I was like, ‘Oh no, here we go.’ The last couple of miles were tough, but it was awesome to run a little quicker than last year and feel a lot better.”
The first person across the line in 1:07:52 was running in Montana for the first time ever. Fernando Cabada of Lakewood, Colorado has won plenty of races in a successful pro career. The Missoula Marathon reputation brought him to town to add another trophy.
“I saw a video, a YouTube video or some sort, profiling the race and the town,” explained Cabada. “I was like, ‘Wow, this looks like a fun time.’ This was months ago, right? I’m only going to be running three or four more years as a professional, so time is a ticking, you know what I mean? So I’m like, ‘I’ve got to start getting these races in.'”
Overall, more than 6,000 runners took part in the 5K on Saturday or the full or half-marathon on Sunday, nearly 750 volunteers helped run the always-successful event, and thousands of spectators lined the course, including another huge crowd at the finish line in downtown Missoula.