BOZEMAN — The Bridger Ridge Run has been around since the 1980s, but when there was no one else to fill the director’s chair in 1995, David Summerfield willingly stepped into the role.
“I ran it in (1994) and just fell in love with it, it was the type of run I really love,” he said.
Summerfield has been running races in the mountains his whole life.
“I grew up in Switzerland and did a lot of races in France and in Italy and Germany and this had the same feel,” Summerfield said.
The 20-mile race is grueling, traveling through many elevations and rough terrain. While Summefield has participated in the race 12 times, he still remembers the difficulty he had the first time he ran it in 1994.
“I had to come down backwards all the way to the finish line," said Summerfield. "Every step of the way my muscles that stop you going downhill were shot."
The race has grown significantly since Summerfield has been director. It went from around 90 finishers when he first took over to more than 250 participants. However, there are many more applicants. Summerfield decided to have a lottery of who would be able to run the race, but he also made the applicants write an essay of why they wanted to participate.
“The only reason I asked for an essay was to not just tell me why they want to get in, but I just wanted to find out a little bit about who they are, a personal story,” he said.
“A lot of our themes actually came out of those essays, whether it was veterans, Native Americans, cancer survivors, and every year there was one that kind of rose to the surface, so we embodied those essays and actually made them a part of the race,” said Eric Boswell, who is now the new director.
Summerfield has decided that he is stepping down as the race director, passing the torch to three people, including Boswell, who will all fill his enormous running shoes. Summerfield’s fondest memories of the race are the people.
“I got to know a lot of people really well and that’s always the most satisfying part of the race, is just getting to know people who are having the time of their lives,” he said.
It’s not the first time Summerfield has passed a torch. He helped carry a torch for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City as it passed through Montana.
“Talk about adrenaline rush," Summerfield said. "It was just a lot of fun and it’s incredibly symbolic, to put it that way.”
Summerfield is trading the Bridger Mountains for the Beartooth Mountain Range. He’s moving away to Nye, but he’s not ruling out running the race for a 13th time.
“It’s crossed my mind and I’ll just leave it at that,” Summerfield said.