Thanks to Jess Manning, the First State is now the last state to be represented in this weekend's running of the fourth annual Missoula Marathon and Half Marathon.
As of last month, the event had a runner registered from every state in the nation - except Delaware.
When word got out that race organizers were seeking a distance runner from the tiny East Coast state and that they would even pay the registration fee, Manning got moving.
The triathalon coach just couldn't let his home state be a no-show.
"I saw it as my responsibility to help make sure our state was properly represented and that it wasn't the one that kept this great marathon from having all the states represented," Manning said in a telephone interview.
A quick e-mail to Jennifer Straughan, Missoula Marathon race director, and Manning was signed up.
Not only did he get free entry for the race, the Hilton Garden Inn is putting him up free of charge.
The unusual hunt made news in running communities across the country, and made its way into high-profile publications such as Runner's World.
With each successive year, the race continues to grow, and so do the quirky stories associated with it, Straughan said.
This year, the quirks keep coming.
Here's another: A woman from Brooklyn won a Missoula Marathon registration during the "Cell Phone Shootout" contest on the television program "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon."
Straughan said the woman doesn't run and has never been to Missoula. So to make her experience memorable, the race paid for her airfare from New York to Missoula and Wilma Building owner Rick Wishcamper is giving her a swanky apartment for the the weekend.
She'll walk the half marathon and serve sort of as a mascot for the event, Straughan said.
"We are getting really excited about the marathon," Straughan said. "Things are going great and really coming together."
Even the weather seems to be collaborating for a remarkable run.
High temperatures are expected to be in the 80s - not the 100-degree weather the marathon has had to deal with in years past.
"The 10-day forecast looks like it's going to be great running weather," said Anders Brooker, who helps plan marathon events and leads training groups at his downtown shop, Runner's Edge.
As of last week, 1,350 runners were registered for the marathon, 2,122 for the half marathon, 197 for the Kids' Marathon and 20 for the marathon relay.
The numbers are more than double the count from last year, and organizers are expecting a rush on last-minute registration.
Runners like to know they can perform at 100 percent on race day and like to know what the weather will be, Straughan said, explaining the long tradition of registration holdouts.
Registration for the race is open until 6 p.m. Saturday, and people can sign up at Runner's Edge, REI, any First Security Bank in Missoula and at the race expo on Saturday in Caras Park, which is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
"The race has grown so much, which is what we want and which is really great," Straughan said. "But we still need more volunteers to help out to make it this a really standout event!"
As for Manning, he can't wait for his chance to tell everyone in Montana about Delaware, and he can't wait to get back home and tell Delaware about Montana.
His mother-in-law was the one who first heard about the hunt for a Delaware runner, and she alerted Manning via a text message that read: "Missouri needs a Delaware runner."
"I googled the words and came up with Missoula, and I got a chuckle," Manning said "At least I had heard of Missoula before because I read in Runner's World that it was voted best marathon."
"I'm looking forward to running there and running in one of the most beautiful venues - I couldn't be more excited," he said. "And I look forward to representing my state.
"It's a common thing here that when people ask you where you live and you say Delaware, they say, ‘What state is that?' As a joke, we have a lot of T-shirts running around here that say, ‘Dela-Where?' "
Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.