Some of us feel we’re always running to keep up. For Eva Dunn-Froebig, running is part of the job.
The executive director of Run Wild Missoula organizes 15 foot races a year in the Missoula area. In between, she helps thousands of runners, joggers and health enthusiasts find a training group that fits their speeds and needs.
“Run Wild Missoula is my family,” Dunn-Froebig said at her office beneath the Runner’s Edge in downtown Missoula. She works in a small room next to the big open space where runners gather to lace up or gear down after training sessions that send them all over the city and its surroundings.
“You’re out there with people for long periods of time, and it’s very social,” Dunn-Froebig said. “You stay in these groups every Sunday for weeks, and people develop lifelong friendships. All it takes for membership is $25 a year and some good shoes.”
Despite running’s growing popularity, Dunn-Froebig is one of the few full-time marathon coordinators in the country. She got the job five years ago as the Missoula Marathon crossed the competitive threshold that let participants qualify for marquee events like the Boston Marathon.
“We’re still primarily a volunteer organization, and we couldn’t do what we do without volunteers,” Dunn-Froebig said. “You have to have somebody who has time to put into the organization, so there’s less turnover. But I just returned from a national conference and I was surprised how few clubs have professional directors. They’re just not big enough. There are a lot of cities bigger than us (in Missoula) that don’t have as many members.”
Run Wild Missoula leverages those members to increase its presence in the community. In addition to setting up competitions, it also invites participants to service projects such as improving the Hellgate High School running track, clearing trail in the popular forest parks and improving safety features and drainage on mountain routes.
“We wanted to find a way to be consistent with what we were doing,” Dunn-Froebig said. “We also wanted to brand Run Wild Missoula as the organizer of these events.”
That includes collaborating with other businesses and nonprofits in the Missoula area to sponsor events. Run Wild Missoula has done several partnerships with the Missoula Downtown Association on festivals and street fairs that benefit from each organization’s network of volunteers.
The growth of Missoula’s running community has also inspired interest in new forms of activity. For example, many Run Wild Missoula members like trail racing, which involves long-distance routes through remote backcountry. For Dunn-Froebig, that’s meant negotiations with the U.S. Forest Service and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to find suitable places and ensure the safety of both runners and wildlife.
“I’ve been a runner my whole life,” Dunn-Froebig said. “I’m in the lucky position where I don’t have to deal with unhappy people very much. I get to see people make life changes. That’s what makes this work so fulfilling.”