MISSOULA – Sunday was perfect for a run in the Garden City. The Missoula Marathon hit the streets and roads from Frenchtown all the way to downtown once again. And we saw the fastest race yet in the popular event. In its 13th edition, winners crossed the finish line from near and far.
The first man across the Higgins Avenue bridge came all the way from Kenya. Kenneth Kosgei led a stacked field in the men’s half marathon. He crossed the line in 1 hour, 5 minutes and 31 seconds, beating the course record by over half a minute. The current Oregon resident has raced all over the world, and continues the great running tradition from the Rift Valley in Kenya.
“This is the kind of life. We like running,” said Kosgei. “And we normally like to be representing the world in the Olympic games.”
The women’s winner is a familiar face to anyone who follows running in the Treasure State. Bigfork native and current University of Colorado All-American Makena Morley won for a fourth straight year. And she keeps improving, smashing her own course record with a time of 1:14:29 (Her old record sat at 1:15:52).
Morley doesn’t run anything longer than a 10K the rest of the year. But the 13.1 miles of the Missoula half-marathon keeps bringing her back.
“I mean, I love Montana. It’s just my special place,” explained Morley. “I love Missoula, and just the atmosphere and the whole race. It’s such an amazing race they put on. So I just love coming back here and seeing all of my friends and family. I wasn’t really sure what pace I was going until I saw at mile 12. I was like, oh, I could break my own record. Ok, sweet.”
In the full 26.2 mile race, we saw another repeat champion, and another local favorite. Missoula native Mark Messmer won for a second straight year. The former Missoula Sentinel Spartan and Montana Grizzly continues to get stronger. He broke a personal best with a time of 2:24:01, the second fastest in Missoula Marathon history. And he learned some lessons from his previous PR set at the Boston Marathon two months ago.
“I was a little more cautious in this one,” said Messmer. “Took it a little bit easy on the first half. And then up the hill I surged and kind of was able to spread myself out from the rest of the field. I wasn’t sure what to expect today. Had a little cold coming into the week. And so didn’t really know what I’d get. But I’m glad it turned out all right. I’ll take the second fasted time ever, for sure.”
Messmer won by just over seven minutes, with MTN’s own Carson Vickroy finishing second. The fastest weatherman in the world heads back to KBZK with some new prizes.
In the women’s full marathon, Kayla Brown held off Sarah Hallas by 53 seconds. The track and cross country coach at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville wants to run a marathon in all 50 states. Her first time in Montana led to a solid time of 2:50:47, the fourth best ever in the race. It will help create a great example for the athletes she coaches.
“I preach to them you have to do your best every day,” stated Brown. “Who would I be if I didn’t do the same thing? My personal best is 2:43, so I was seven minutes off of that. But this is my second best time overall. So I’m happy with it.”
Well over 4,000 runners from all 50 states and 9 countries finished either the full or half marathon in Missoula. Congratulations to everyone who crossed the finish line.