As the former program coordinator for Run Wild Missoula, Hillary Ogg is very familiar with the local running scene. This month, however, she stepped way out of her comfort zone and ran the Rut 28k. We love seeing runners push their limits  and Hillary pushed hard enough to earn the coveted ‘Runner of the Month’ designation for October. 

How long have you been running? Consistently since 2003 – I tried for years before that (starting at about age 11) and wasn’t great at it. I always felt like I couldn’t breathe…turns out I had asthma all those years and didn’t know!
You just finished the Rut, what was that like?  The Rut 28K was the scariest, most humbling, most amazing thing I’ve ever done. I am still in awe that my legs and body carried me up and down all that terrain and that, despite some serious bonks/mistakes that day, I freaking finished. It inspired me in a million different ways, not just in regard to my running, and it was a truly life changing experience. When I signed up last January, I had no idea how much it would affect every single decision I made every day for the time leading up to the race.
What is your favorite color?  Probably a coral-orange. I kind of love all colors, but lean toward oranges and pinks (preferably a combo of the two!).
We heard it was a challenging day out there for you. What does overcoming something like that mean to you?  Going into the Rut I kept saying my goal was to get on and off the mountain of my own volition. I didn’t really think about not making the cut offs at the aid stations and I didn’t think that my original goal (it sounded pretty simple and I’m pretty damn stubborn!) would turn out to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. On race day, it was way hotter than I thought it was going to be and there was a bit of smoke in the air. My asthma had been awful since about mid-July (I’m allergic to SMOKE!) and I was worried about that.  Once we (I ran with my friend and brother’s girlfriend, Hannah!) made it through Swift Current aid station, I was just jacked to head up Lone Peak and then get to the next aid station. I had no idea what the terrain back there was like, how hot it would be, and how far that aid station really was from Swift Current. We made it to the last aid station and the awesome volunteers were shouting, “FIFTEEN SECONDS!”
I forgot to eat at the aid station because I was so focused on crossing the mat before we missed the cut off and refilling my water (I was totally out)…and then we went up the road instead of down the trail. Whoops. We added an extra mile onto our total mileage that day and I ended up hitting an unreal, DARK, mental place about two miles from the finish: I didn’t know how many more miles I had left because of our wrong turn, we could hear the finish line for what seemed like FOREVER, I was so worried I wasn’t going to make the cut off time, it was SO HOT, and I was crashing from not enough calories. My husband was texting me asking if I needed him to come get me and I had this moment (sitting on the side of the trail, dizzy and dry heaving) when I realized, even if someone came to get me, it wasn’t like they would actual carry me down the mountain – I still had to use my own body to get off the course.
Hannah and I had a moment where we assessed, realized I hadn’t eaten, ate, drank some water, and just decided to get it done. One step at a time, didn’t matter how long it took, we were crossing that damn finish line together. It all came back to my original goal: I was going to get on and off the mountain via my own will power and resolve (which was only possible coupled with the massive amount of moral support from my family and friends!).
Even though I was literally one of the last 28K’ers to cross that finish line, I still attained my original goal. It was a completely life changing experience (and, yes, I’m totally getting my own commemorative Rut tattoo…not so much the antlers, but something I’m coming up with one my own – stay tuned).
What is your favorite food?  Seafood…dungeness crab, shrimp, clams. Hard to come by in Montana…
What’s the next big challenge on the horizon for you?  My goal for 2018 is to run a half marathon in under 2 hours. The closest I’ve come is 2:00:35…I will beat that damn clock!
Congratulations Hillary! Good luck in that half marathon, we will be cheering for you.  

Nico Composto has only been in Missoula for a year, but has already established himself on the running scene. As a former All-American cross country runner at Columbia, Nico has injected some new speed into local races. So far this year he has won the Bitterroot Runoff, placed 3rd at the Don’t Fence Me In 30k, won the Thunderbolt Creek 30k, won the Snowbowl 15k, and ran a 2:31 marathon solo. He is also the current leader in Montana Trail Crew’s Treasure State Trail Series and just started a master’s program in education. 

Name: Nico Composto

Age: 25

When did you start running? When I was 7. It was third grade. I was a chubby little kid and came in last in all my races.

What has been your favorite race? NCAA cross country championships. It’s just a super competitive race. It brings together all of the best college runners of every distance in the country and it’s one of the deepest races in the world.

What keeps you running? It’s a tangible way to feel happiness. Everytime I go for a run I know that’s going to make me happy. When life is uncertain, it’s the one thing I know that will make me feel better.

How many miles a week do you run? In between 50 and 65.

What’s next on the calendar for you? John Colter Run (part of the Treasure State Trail Series).

What is your favorite thing about Missoula? The mountains. Every single mountain surrounding us. I just love them all.

Michael, pictured on the left after a recent race, is a familiar face at many of the local road and trail races. The past year or two he has been on a quest to break three hours in the marathon and at the 2017 Missoula Marathon he managed to crush that barrier by running a 2:58:32. We caught up with Michael to learn a bit more about him and how he got himself across that barrier. 

Name:  Michael LaForest

Age:  36 years

Hometown:  Missoula, born and raised.

How did you get started running? I started running in 1996 as a Sentinel Spartan. I ran cross country and track, 1600 and 3200, all four years and was captain of my cross country and track team my senior year.

What do you enjoy most about running? It relieves stress and it’s therapeutic. It makes me feel good about myself.

Where is your favorite place to run around town? I like the Rattlesnake a lot. I also like to run out by Big Sky High School. I do a loop out towards Blue Mountain, then to 3rd Street, back to Fort Missoula and then back to my house.

What was the Missoula Marathon like for you this year? It was a great experience. There was a strong sense of community. I had other runners to help me maintain a steady pace. I think I ran a smart race for once in my life!

What did it feel like to break three hours? I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself, but in this race I really tried to let go and just relax. I guess it paid off.

In some ways it’s hard to believe that I was able to break three hours. In September 2016, I was hit by a a car while I was riding my bike. My shoulder and neck were hurt. I ran the Bozeman Marathon a few days later and was really bothered by these injuries. I pushed through anyway because it was 9/11. As an Iraq War veteran, it was important to me to participate on Patriots Day.

After that I was afraid I would have to give up running. I am so grateful to the team at Sapphire Physical Therapy for helping me through this. They worked on my injuries and renewed my confidence to return to running. With their help I felt well enough mentally and physically to prepare for the Missoula Marathon in 2017.

What’s next for you in the running world?  For now I’m just enjoying this. I may run the Bozeman Marathon again this year.  I hope that my story can inspire people to stick with their goals even though they are hurt.

Congratulations Michael and good luck in your next races!

Leah Handelman is a familiar face towards the front of races in the Montana trail racing scene. She recently followed up her win at the Don’t Fence Me In 30k with a first place finish at the Bighorn 52 mile run in Wyoming. She is also currently the female leader in the Treasure State Trail Series.

Name: Leah Handelman

Age: 32

Hometown: Whitefish, MT

How did you get into running?  I actually got into running as a way to relieve stress and anxiety and to keep an overly energetic dog happy.   My Dad, an avid runner and former Marine, got me into racing by convincing me to do the Big Mountain trail run almost 10 years ago and by then I was officially hooked.

What is your favorite run around Missoula?  I love Mt Jumbo because the lack of year round accessibility keeps it wild. When it’s open, one my favorite loops is up and over Jumbo via the “L” trail or switchbacks into Woods  Gulch.

What’s next on your running calendar? So far, I’m looking forward to RATBOB in July, some TBD  Montana trail series races throughout the summer, and the North Face 50 miler in Park City, in September.

Tell us about Bighorn: Mud, mud, and more mud. But seriously, it was a great lesson in patience.  Initially I was caught up in the  excitement and temptation to push it in the first few miles, but after wiping out in cold, wet mud for the tenth or eleventh time I made the decision to hold back a bit, save some energy, and “race my own race.” In the end, it paid off, and I had the stamina to make-up for any lost time when the mud (finally) subsided.

Congratulations on a strong start to the 2017 trail season, Leah! Keep up the good work. 

Runner’s of the Month – Ken, Erin, and Erin

Ken O’Donnell, Erin Forde, and Erin Williams are three new employees at Runner’s Edge. We are happy to have them on board and hope you can swing by and say hi!

Name: Ken O’Donnell, Erin Forde, Erin Williams

How long have you been in Missoula? 
K- Since January 2016
EF- Three years, yay Mountains!
EW- “I was born and raised in Missoula, Montana. I am fifth generation Montanan. My state love runs deep.”

How many years have you been running?
K- 10 Years
EF- 11 years, since middle school
EW- 10 Years, since sophomore year at Hellgate

Are you training for anything in particular?
K-  “What I’m really training for is good health and the ability to stay extremely active for the rest of my life.”
EF- “My husband and I are going to run our first Missoula Half Marathon.”
EW- “Ski season! And I am going to be using our glorious summer to get ready for the Rut 28k.”

What is your favorite local race?
 K- Catch ‘Em If You Can 5K (editor’s note: now Heartthrob 5k)
EF- Turkey Trot with family and friends
EW- I love the Blue Mountain 30k

What is your do you enjoy most about the local running community?
K- “Everyone seems to love running AND beer!”
EF- “Everyone is so welcoming! It’s always intimidating starting a new job or run with new people, but you all sure have made the transition super easy! 🙂 I’ve had so much fun meeting people that enjoy being outside and having a blast while running.”
EW- “I continue to be tickled by the accessibility to support, and motivation for each other. I am so grateful and excited to help strengthen this community and their love of movement and running.”

What is your best running memory?
K- “On Christmas I went for a run in the morning when it was still dark and there was a fresh layer of snow everywhere and the air just had that feeling to it that only a frigid, dark winter morning has. I was running out of town and even though all I could hear was the crunch of snow underfoot, the sound of my breathing and the constant wind, I could still sense the lights from town and that buzz of electricity. Then the presence of town and the hum of all the fridges, lights and obnoxious speakers at the Maverick gas station suddenly stopped! I turned around and saw that almost the entire city had lost power! It was so dark and so quiet! It was as if the city had disappeared and I was looking out from this big hill at a vast, empty, dark place where no people lived. I ran home in the dark and the silence and being there no streetlights where I was, fortunately for me, there wasn’t a soul out driving around at that time on Christmas morning.”
 EF- “Hopefully it will be the half marathon I run with my Hubby! Otherwise the 5k beer run because there’s a free beer at the end! :)”
EW- “In February 2016, I ran up Ben Lomond Peak in Queenstown, NZ. We ran up into a Hallmark sunset. The ascent was roughly two and a half Mount Sentinels stacked with more curves, flowers, and once domesticated goats. We went out hard. Every time I reminisce I am just unbelievably grateful for the exposure running can provide to a place.


Jen and Jana Jackson (daughter and mother) are some of our favorite ladies in town. The family owns KornUtopia, the specialty popcorn boutique in Missoula, and they are always so kind in donating popcorn to our RE events. Read below to find out more.

Name: Jen / Jana

Age: 36 / 59

Hometown: Frenchtown, MT / Born in Tucson, AZ and have lived in Missoula for 20 years.

Age You Started Running/Walking/Exercising: I started running cross country my sophomore year of high school. / I started walk/running in 2011 when our daughter Jen who has been a runner since high school, talked her dad and I into listening to Jeff Galloway introduce the Galloway walk/run method and start training for the Missoula half marathon.  Since then I have been hooked.  I met some women in the group in 2012  that inspire me daily, as two of them are cancer survivors.  Since then, we meet two mornings durning the week and every Sunday rain or shine and walk/run.

What Motivates You to Get Out the Door? I run because it makes me feel better physically, but it also does wonders for me mentally. / My motivation is knowing that there are others waiting to do the same thing.  I think we all keep each other going.  I also feel great when we are done.

Do You Prefer Walking With Friends or Solo? Both. During the week I enjoy running by myself.  I don’t have to worry about how fast or slow I’m going and I can let my mind wander.  On Sundays I love going out with my mom and her friends.  They’re a good bunch to go with because they show up no matter what and they always have fun.  Rain, snow, sleet or shine, you can bet they’ll be there at 6:45am. / I prefer to go out with by buddies.

Favorite Food: Definitely pizza. / My favorite food would have to be Mexican!

Favorite Activity Outside of Exercising: I love to golf! / Outside of excersising, time spent with family is the best.

Words of Wisdom: I’ve never felt worse after a run than before I went. / It is obvious with me that it is never too late to start something new.

We always have great things to say about the staff and owners of Runner’s Edge as they make every runner & walker, of all shapes and sizes, feel empowered.     (Thanks ladies!)