The Jokers

SNOW JOKE HISTORY

It started back in the 1970s with six Seeley Lake scalawags who liked to run. On weekends, they would meet at Don Larson’s Filling Station tavern before their training lope around the lake. After their workout, they returned to the tavern and drank Fosters Lager, possibly to excess. Eventually, they institutionalized their friendship by forming the Cheetah Herders Athletic Club. Within a couple of years, they institutionalized their training run as well, holding the first Snow Joke in 1980.

MT Race

The Cheetah Herders recall the moment of inspiration only vaguely, if accurately at all:

“After one particularly invigorating lap around the lake with the dudes, someone halfway through his third Fosters slobbered, ‘Hey, let’s get runners to drive to Seeley Lake in the dead of winter, run our half-marathon loop around the lake on icy roads, then help us drink Don’s beer.’ It made perfect sense. Don was certainly all for it. On February 23, 1980, 33 runners actually took it seriously and showed up. The first Snow Joke was run, and was won by Mike Layman while in training for the Olympic Marathon Trials. The ‘Official Post-Race Event of the Cheetah Herders Athletic Club’ went well into the next day.”

Since then, the race has matured, along with its founders. Their original mantra, “Drink before you run,” has been replaced by “Seek levity without obliteration,” which they now cite as the club’s “Official Reasoning.”

But reasoning goes only so far. Under the sober-minded leadership of race impresario Pat Caffrey, the Snow Joke became suprisingly successful, so much so that Pat and the Cheetah Herders handed off the event to Big Sky Orogenic Racing and Events, or BSORE, in 2014.

Now in its 38th year, the Snow Joke retains as much of its original character as law and decorum permits. From a gifted few, there are notably fast times. For others, there’s an invigorating ordeal. The race has never been cancelled, winter weather be damned. Nor has a wimp ever finished.

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