"You see the dramatic pictures of people running along the ridge of the Bridger Mountains near Bozeman, and you wonder why."
The Department remembers a great colleague and a great human being. Why would anyone want to race -- or even trudge -- along the crest of a mountain range so high and craggy that its howling winds attract hundreds of thermal-seeking raptors every fall? The same gusts that propel golden eagles through the Bridgers also threaten to blast runners off sections of the trail and maybe over the ledge, past mountain goats and down knee-slicing scree. Why would anyone run along cliffs so massive that they look like they should support the Great Wall of China? Why would anyone run the ridge ever? But, why run especially when a local meteorologist predicts a good chance of rain and high mountain snow and temperatures reaching 32 degrees at 9,000 feet? Those were the conditions during the 25th annual Ed Anacker Ridge Run, which was held in August. You hand out water, Gatorade, grapes and more at the Ross Pass aid station, elevation 7,620 feet. You watch runners come and go and still wonder. Why do they run? Why does runner #98 keep going with mud and blood dripping down both shins? She asks for Ibuprofen but doesn't want bandages. "Nobody should be able to leave here without blood on them," runner #265 assures her. Why can't the man eating oranges stop drooling? What can the woman do about her swollen hands and ever-tightening ring? How many runners wrapped duct tape around their feet to prevent blisters? Questions linger even at the parking lot below the "M" where people hoot, holler and clang cowbells as each runner crosses the finish line, where family and friends wait in lawn chairs and peer up the mountain, and runners share tales from the top. Why -- on a weekend when President Obama was visiting Yellowstone National Park and West Yellowstone was commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Hebgen Lake earthquake -- did 250 people chose to run approximately 20 agonizing miles at elevations up to 9,665 feet? It would seem that some of those questions could be answered by Ed Anacker, the Montana State University scientist, octogenarian and legendary athlete who, in 1985, started the Ridge Run, which has become one of Bozeman's most respected annual athletic traditions. Anacker's response to the 250 runners who signed up for the treacherous race within 30 minutes of pre-registration opening, all for a shot at more than three hours of pure pain? "I didn't know there were so many crazy people," Anacker said.
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