The Rut 50K Preview

Lone Mountain - Credit: The Rut 50K
Fall turns on like a switch in the Montana high country. The calendar hits September and the days are shorter, the mornings colder, and the talk turns from fire to snow. Hunters are giddy. Runners experience it too. Morning runs feature steam lifting off creeks and aspen and larch start to reveal their autumn gold. Then we hear it; the bugle. It might be a faint echo off a canyon wall, but we know the rut is coming and that the mountain giants are headed to battle.

This Saturday, on the slopes of Big Sky Mountain Resort’s Lone Mountain, the trail running community will experience its own fall showdown. Runners will test their abilities on one of the most challenging mountain 50Ks in North America. Like the seasonal elements that combine to bring the elk into a frenzy, a unique combination of people and place collide to give us The Rut.
In its inaugural year, The Rut is emerging as Montana’s premier ultramarathon. This should come as little surprise to those familiar with the people who are making it happen. The Runner’s Edge, under race director Mike Foote, has built an outstanding repertoire of events over the past several years. For The Rut, Foote partnered with fellow Montanan and North Face athlete Mike Wolfe. The Montana Mikes, as they've been dubbed of late, have competed in top level events the world over. Given their shared experiences, it was only a matter of time before they teamed up to give back to the state they love—after all, these are the guys who've been known to hoist the Montana flag at international events. While the Mikes bring a slice of Montana to the international running scene, with The Rut they've brought a slice of the international running scene to Montana. According to Wolfe, The Rut is largely modeled after European Skyrunner Federation races the pair have experienced in the past. “Skyrunner's ethos,” Wolfe explains, “is to design the purest mountain running races on aesthetic terrain, extremely technical, with loads of vertical relief. . . . That's the type of terrain that most appeals to us as runners - adventure in the mountains.” 
The Montana Mikes - Credit: The Rut 50K
If the Montana Mikes’ European mountain running backgrounds are one side of the The Rut coin, their experience in Southwest Montana is the other. According to Wolfe, “Few U.S. races match the technical challenges of their European counterparts, with the Bridger Ridge Run being the only race in Montana coming close.” Wolfe and Foote, by the way, are each former Bridger Ridge Run Champions. “We wanted to offer more of this style of racing, for Americans to enjoy, and Montana has that kind of terrain to offer. Big Sky in particular has very technical, loose, rocky, severe terrain, and at was a perfect match!” The Mikes should know. Wolfe is a Bozeman native who grew up skiing Lone Mountain’s steep lines. Foote ski patrolled at Moonlight Basin. “Local knowledge,” Wolfe notes, was key to course design. “We knew that it was perfect terrain before we even started summer scouting, knowing how steep, technical and rocky the terrain is. We will send runners straight up ‘Bonecrusher Ridge’ to the summit, and down the south boundary line, both of which are ski lines we have been on, and knew this terrain would be challenging for everyone, and it is ‘the goods’ we were looking for.” Although The Rut offers some fast, runnable sections, Wolfe is confident that on the 2,000 vertical foot Bonecrusher ascent over “steep, loose rock, very technical, pure ridge scrambling straight to the summit, all in less than 2 miles, there will be no running.”
Clearly, the Mikes go big. Given the prominent place The Rut is taking in Montana’s running scene before the starting shot is even fired, it should come as little surprise that these race directors have a lot more in store for us. With an eye toward the future, they not only envision The Rut expanding, but becoming a premier U.S. event in the Sky Running Federation World Series of Mountain Running. Talks are underway to develop a Skyrunner-style 3-day festival of mountain running featuring a Vertical Kilometer (a 3,000 foot ascent race in less than 5K to the summit of Lone Mountain) which, along with the marquee 50k, would draw a top international field. Although we can expect the event to grow, the Montana faithful can be assured that the Mikes will keep the event true to its Montana roots: big, beautiful, and rugged.

Athletes to watch:

200 50K runners will descend upon Big Sky Mountain Resort to test their abilities on Lone Mountain. While most will simply hope to make it across the finish line, a competitive field will be in the hunt for a podium finish. Here are a few to watch:

Luke Nelson, Pocatello… fresh off a strong 6th place showing against a stacked field at the challenging Speedgoat 50K, this Patagonia athlete and world class ski mountaineer is well suited for the steep Lone Mountain terrain.

Jeremy Wolf, Missoula… MTC’s own, Wolf has proven his speed with podium finishes at numerous Montana trail races over the past two seasons and recorded a 3:38 50K trail debut in April. A missed turn led him to drop from Speedgoat, but his recent training (see Glacier loop) suggests he’s ready to throw down another solid performance.

Jeff Rome, Livingston… an experienced ultra-runner at age 24, Montana mountain running suites him well as evidenced by his 3rd place finish at this year’s Bridger Ridge Run. He followed that up a week later with a sub 21 hour finish at the Leadville 100.

Zack Strong, Bozeman… the former Dartmouth steepler is past champion of numerous races throughout Montana, including the Bridger Ridge Run, Pengelly Double Dip, and Montana Cup.

Matt Shryock, Missoula… 2:36 marathoner, 1:09 half marathoner, and competitive triathlete.

Mark Handelman, Missoula… 2:42 at 2013 Missoula Marathon and winner of 2013 Pengelly Single Dip. 


Cheryl Beatty, Calgary… Winner of numerous 50Ks and champion of the 2013 Ultra Trail Lavaredo in Italy.

Minde Erickson, Bozeman… 2012 Bridger Ridge Run Champion, 2013 runner-up.

The Rut 50K & 12K - By Sprout Films from Sprout Films on Vimeo.


  1. Keep an eye out for local athlete Melinda Turner in Saturday's 50K.

  2. This is nice blog that let me remember when i am with my family while visit at Climb Mount Meru, a real mountain trip that amazed with me and let my hope to enjoy againa and again.



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