The Rut Ultramarathon: One Foot in front of the other

Written by Ginny Mahar on  at

Imagine running a marathon that takes you up, around, and over the top of scree-encrusted Lone Peak, gaining and losing approximately 10,000 feet in elevation. Now tack on about 5 more miles. That in a nutshell is The Rut 50K-an ultra-marathon on the brink of becoming the biggest deal in Sky Running in the United States and, at least to some extent, the world.

To clarify, an ultra-race is any race longer than marathon length, or 26.2 miles. The shortest established ultrarace is 50 kilometers, or approximately 31 miles, but many ultra-marathons are 100 miles or more. Sky running, in its simplest definition, is running distance plus vertical, or long runs over mountainous terrain. The Rut, organized by The Runners Edge in Missoula, began in 2013 as the brainchild of race directors and international mountain runners, Mike Foote and Mike Wolfe. "The two Mikes" as they are known throughout the circuit, are both members of the North Face Ultra Running Team. Inspired by the steeper, more technical courses they've competed in throughout the European Alps, they wanted to bring that level of world-class racing to the U.S. and more specifically, to their Montana backyard.

On September 14, 2013, when the inaugural Rut 50K and 12K went off like a ski boot at 4:00am at Big Sky Resort, it got the attention of the International Skyrunning Federation. They chose The Rut 50K as the site of the 2014 Skyrunner World Series (SWS) Ultra Final. The SWS is a group of races taking place in the mountains of Spain, Italy, Switzerland, France, and now the United States. As race organizer Mike Foote explains, "You don't have to run all the races [in the SWS], but since The Rut 50K is the final, you get double the points, so most of the serious competitors will be here. We're expecting a bunch of international elite trail running athletes." One of those much anticipated athletes is Sky Runner Kilian Jornet, whom National Geographic named the 2014
People's Choice Adventurer of the Year.

"The course is one of the biggest draws of the event," says Foote. "The 50K is extremely technical. There's runnable
single track, but there's also lots of knife-edged ridgelines." The most attention-grabbing section takes runners up and over Lone Peak via Bone Crusher Ridge. The climb gains 2,000 feet in elevation in about a mile and a half of highly exposed terrain, to the iconic 11,166 ft. summit.

"It's just unbelievable up there," says Foote. "That part of the course is more than a race. It's an adventure."
The question The Rut asks us all, on some level, is do I have it in me? Do I have that kind of mental game? To put one foot in front of the other, over rocky, mountainous terrain, for 31 miles?
-Ginny

To read more from Ginny on The Rut Ultramarathon check out the next issue of Live Big Magazine now at Big Sky Resort. 

The Rut
The Rut 2013. 

Rut
The Rut runners head up Lone Peak via Bone Crusher.