Maniacs are converging on Missoula this week.
Marathon Maniacs, that is.
These runners are addicted to marathons and are often spotted along 26.2-mile race courses wearing yellow jerseys. Marathon Maniacs is a national organization of runners who run multiple marathons a year. The minimum criteria for group membership include running two marathons within 16 days or three marathons within 90 days.
There are more than 5,600 Marathon Maniacs in 38 countries, with about 5,100 members living in the United States and 150 in Canada. In Montana, there are just 12 registered Marathon Maniacs and only one in Missoula.
On the group’s website, members indicate which upcoming races they plan to run. One hundred and fourteen maniacs have indicated that they plan to run the upcoming Missoula Marathon, which in terms of interest is up there with races like the San Francisco Marathon, New York Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon.
Two Marathon Maniacs for sure will be at the starting line early Sunday morning.
Among them is Ryan Snyder, a Run Wild Missoula board member and, as far as he knows, the only Marathon Maniac living in Missoula.
“It does surprise me a little because we have such a large and talented running community here, but it just hasn’t yet caught on locally,” he said. “I think that the locals might be mostly immune to such things as the allure of the Marathon Maniacs precisely because we do have such a deep pool of local talent and activity; so many of us are very busy working on making the Missoula running community as great a community as we can.”
Snyder started running in 2009. On Sunday, he’ll complete his fifth marathon. Three of those have been the Missoula Marathon. He joined the ranks of the maniacs in 2010 by completing two marathons in two days. Over Thanksgiving weekend, he ran the Ghost of Seattle Marathon and the Seattle Marathon, which put him on the Marathon Maniac’s four-star iridium level.
There are 10 maniac levels, each more challenging than the next. And there are criteria that runners must meet in order to move up a level.
Snyder joined because of the camaraderie of belonging to a group of a people who like running long distances.
“Whenever I meet other maniacs we seem to get along well right away,” he said.
One Maniac heading to the Garden City this week is Doug Shanks, winner of the first-ever Missoula Marathon sweepstakes.
As a way to promote the marathon, organizers gave away an all-expense-paid trip to Missoula for two runners interested in running the marathon. All runners had to do was register on the Missoula Marathon website.
More than 1,000 people registered in the sweepstakes, said Anders Brooker, the Missoula Marathon race director. The winner received two free airline tickets, lodging at the Hilton Garden Inn, gas card, free rental car and a Missoula Downtown Association gift card to cover meal expenses.
While the sweepstakes was open to anyone, it just so happens that the winner is also a Marathon Maniac.
Shanks is a five-star maniac, having completed 114 marathons and three ultramarathons, one in at least every state, plus Canada, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and Scotland. One year, he completed marathons in 13 states. To celebrate his 100th marathon, Shanks ran the entire race in a gorilla costume.
The reason that the Missoula Marathon is a draw to Maniacs is because many try and run a marathon in every state, said Brooker.
“Being the best (marathon) in the state, it’s an obvious choice for them,” he said.
Shanks, who is from Portland, Ore., heard good things about the Missoula Marathon from some running buddies back home. He’s visited Missoula before, but has never run the local marathon.
“Western Montana is so pretty anyways,” said Shanks, who has run the Two Bear Marathon in Whitefish.
Shanks has run three marathons already since April, but he says he’s trying to slow down.
“It’s one of those addicting things,” he said.
Shanks is not looking to run a personal best time on Sunday. As he said, “You can’t go fast all the time.”
He’s more interested in having fun, touring the town and mingling with the locals, and is looking forward to the Missoula Marathon beer run on Friday before the race.
“It gives people a chance to swap stories,” he said. “Too often people get so wrapped up in their own world. That’s more social than showing up in town, running a race and leaving again.”
For more information on the Marathon Maniacs, see their website www.marathonmaniacs.com.
Reporter Chelsi Moy can be reached at 523-5260 or at email@example.com.