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Missoula's Makenna Edwards, Erin Forde carry momentum into marathon weekend

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Posted at 10:36 AM, Jun 23, 2023

MISSOULA — Officially, summer is here. And it's that time of the year where on Sunday morning the Beartracks Bridge will be packed with spectators and runners with the return of the Missoula Marathon. And a pair of local runners in Erin Forde and Makenna Edwards are looking forward to making a splash in front of the hometown crowd.

Edwards returns to Missoula to compete after recently graduating from Gonzaga.

There, she studied biochemistry, and the 2019 grad of Missoula Big Sky High School also competed for Gonzaga's cross country and track and field teams.

"It's been great. It's challenging, it challenged me mentally, physically," Edwards said. "I improved a lot over the course of four years, like even my freshman year I think I PR'd in the 5K by over a minute from my high school 5K PR so I was really excited to see that success and then COVID hit, it made it a little difficult when we didn't get as many opportunities and stuff, but the last few years, like I got to run my first 10K this spring and that was really exciting.

"It was challenging for sure but I think being able to compete at that level was really meaningful and was able to allow me to step up and really challenge myself."

And Edwards is well familiar with the Missoula Marathon weekend.

Having participated in it one way or another over the last decade, Edwards enter this year's race with one of the fastest half marathon times, and she took sixth a year ago. She also won the 5K in 2019 right after she graduated high school.

She still resides in Spokane as she now works toward medical school, so any chance to come back home, is a special one.

"It's such a great community that comes out for the marathon weekend," Edwards said. "So the community just keeps bringing me back and I just love the atmosphere that's provided. It kind of pulls me along, like last year, I wasn't racing it but I ended up going a lot faster than I was meaning to. In the last few miles I was kind of struggling and the atmosphere really pulled me along and really pulled me into the finish line and I'm really excited to see what I can do actually racing it."

Forde has been a staple in the Missoula running community since moving to the Garden City in 2014.

Currently she manages Runners Edge in downtown, and is also an assistant cross country and track and field coach at Missoula Hellgate High School which she's done for six years.

But the Fargo, North Dakota native has deep experience in running, and this will be her seventh marathon when she lines up on Sunday.

"So I've done kind of a range like small marathons, and the Houston Marathon being the biggest one that I've done," Forde said. "But really fun and the biggest thing that I've learned or seen from all of the marathons that I've done is just like the community in Missoula. It's just a totally different feel when you come here."

Forde ran collegiately at Iowa State before moving to Missoula, as running has continued to be a focal point in her life.

She enters this year with one of the top full marathon times, and regardless of how the race goes, she's just excited to be competing in front of, and with, the community when Sunday's events roll around.

"I would say lots of excitement and nerves for sure," Forde said. "I feel like running that time in Deluth (Minnesota) last year just really gave me confidence knowing that I am a strong runner and I can compete up front, but I am really excited about the other women that are running and the other men. I know there will be other men around and it's fun to run together.

"I don't want to run a marathon alone, that's not fun, so I'm just really excited to share some miles with other people."