It was hot, but not like it could have been.
“We all were scared,” marathoner Edward Broadnax said. “Thank God it was cool most of the day.”
With a threatened high nearing 100 degrees, the outlook for the 2017 Missoula Marathon was harsh. But the decision to close the track an hour early left the last runners coming in at around 85 degrees.
“We got really lucky,” Marathon Director Tony Banovich said. “When I got up at 2 a.m., it was like 72, 73 degrees."
But by the time he got to the race start in Frenchtown around 5 a.m., it was down to about 60 degrees. The first finishers even felt chilly at the end, Banovich said.
The temperature climbed quickly though, and Banovich was glad they decided to end earlier than usual. No sense in risking serious problems.
“We always have a few (runners) with heat stress,” he said. “And we had some today.”
But “everybody’s getting through…which I’m thrilled about.”
Sunday’s marathon won’t rank as the warmest in the race’s 11 years. In 2007 Banovich remembered the high was 100 degrees and 2012 and 2014 had 95-degree highs.
The medical staff treated a “statistically equal” amount of heat stress cases, compared to other warm years; about 30-45 cases, Banovich said.
There was a cool shower set up at the finish line, but aside from that, Banovich said they followed their usual procedure of handing out lots of cold water and popsicles to help runners lower their body temperature after the grueling run.
He noticed lots of homemade sprinklers on the route, as well as buckets of ice set out by residents for runners.
“People were able to stay wet and stay cool,” he said.
Along the marathon’s final mile through the University District, Chip Miller had his usual rigged up shower station — a garden hose taped to the top of a ladder spraying a misty arc over half the street outside his Hilda Avenue home.
“There’s a need for it,” Miller said standing on the boulevard, glass of orange juice in his hand.
The hose setup isn’t special to this year; Miller said he’s put it out the last six years he’s lived along the route.
But he agreed today, especially as the temperature started really climbing in the late morning, it was more helpful than ever.
“Sometimes people just stand under it,” Miller said. “Which is alright with me.”
Volunteers lined every corner and block through the neighborhood, offering encouragement.
The apt Beatles tune “Here Comes the Sun” played from one route-side stereo. And if that didn’t get a runner’s energy up, a few blocks later organ-accompanied hymns drifted from Holy Spirit Episcopal’s open sanctuary windows.
Volunteer Lynne Stauss was working her first Missoula Marathon, clapping and shouting to runners as they left cool, shady blocks for a sun-drenched turn at Hellgate High.
“Cold everything at the finish line!” Stauss extolled. “Water, beer, popsicles!”
As a pair of runners turned in front of her, Strauss encouraged them to “run through the sprinklers if you like,” pointing to a watered boulevard.
“Ice cubes, ice cream, ice everything,” Strauss cheered to another group.
A little after noon, just a few minutes before the race closed, Edward Broadnax and his girlfriend Bonnie Jules sat under a tent drinking water and munching on post-race snacks.
Jules shook her head at the assertion this race was too hot for Broadnax. He regularly runs the Bataan Memorial Death March, a marathon in the high desert of New Mexico.
He also credited his 26 years in the U.S Army for preparing him to run in uncomfortable conditions.
“Full uniform and boots… 45-pound pack. We’d go long ranges,” he said.
Broadnax has run 235 marathons and is on his 26th this year. He first ran Missoula’s as part of his goal to run a marathon in every state.
He’s come back twice since then and this was by far the warmest.
“It’s been in the 60s… so enjoyable,” Broadnax said.
“It’s hot. It’s really hot out there.”