Warmer Than Usual

It looks like an unseasonably warm week of weather leading up to 37th running of the Snow Joke Half Marathon. After two straight years of overnight lows near zero the day of the race, the National Weather Service forecasts a balmy 27 for Friday night in Seeley Lake, with a high of 44 on Saturday and a 30 percent chance of rain or snow showers. Runners should expect some wet, melting conditions in places on the course.

As of Monday, 827 runners have registered for Saturday’s race. To keep everything under control, we’re going to cap participation at 1,000, so be sure to register online or at Bob Ward’s this week if you’re worried about being shut out on race day. Don’t forget, the price goes up on Saturday, too, which is something to consider.

With a record crowd for the mass start at 11:00 a.m., parking will be harder to find than usual. If you want to have your car handy near the start/finish at Seeley Lake Elementary School, you might want to think about arriving around 9:00 to pick up your race packet as soon as we open the gym. For latecomers, please be courteous. Don’t block access to local businesses or otherwise leave your vehicle in the way.

And speaking of vehicles, remember that Highway 83 will remain open to two lanes of traffic during the run. Runners should hug the left shoulder unless they’re overtaking somebody. Seriously. We don’t want to have an accident. Persistent offenders who run near the centerline risk disqualification.

Along the same vein, we’ll ask spectators to please refrain from driving north on Highway 83 and stopping along the road. With the large field of runners and two lanes of traffic, the congestion could be severe. Our best advice to friends and supporters who want to watch the run is to drive the course in reverse along Boy Scout Rd. You can park anywhere that’s out of the way along Boy Scout, or go all the way to the intersection with the highway, turn right against the direction of the runners, then drive a few hundred yards and park at the large pullout across from the first aide station. It will take the fastest runners about 25 minutes to get there, so you should have plenty of time make it after watching the shotgun start.

The Snow Joke is thrilled to have race founder Pat Caffery back this year as the official starter. But it looks like this year’s winners will have the distinct honor of being the last Snow Joke champions to be recognized by Pat as Cheetah Rangers. He will administer the ridiculous oath just once more before retiring to a warm savannah somewhere. We encourage everybody to stick around for what’s sure to be a supremely weird award ceremony around 1:30.

All-in-all, it’s shaping up to be another great day for an absurd winter running race in the middle of Montana. We’re looking forward to seeing everybody there and having a terrific time. Drive safe!

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