5th Annual Big Sky Half Marathon

Ennis, MT

5th Annual Big Sky Half Marathon


Half Marathon race

The Big Sky Marathon is the result of our success with the Madison Marathon. We held our Inaugural race in 2015 to appease marathoners from around the world who were screaming for a double in Montana. To non-marathoners, this is completely counter-intuitive. Afterall, why would you host a second marathon immediately after one of the most difficult marathons in America? To the likes of Marathon Maniacs though, it makes perfect sense. Why run just one marathon over a weekend when you can run two? Why not earn Four Stars as a Marathon Maniac over the course of 48 hours vs. possibly earning just one star and only if all your other stars line up?​

We couldn’t answer the why not questions other than to say, ‘Yeah, why the hell not?’ The Big Sky Marathon is a doozy. It starts at around 8,500 feet above sea level on the route of the Madison Marathon, and it goes, down, down, down to the town of Ennis on the banks of the Madison River. Turns out, it’s the Second Longest Downhill Road Marathon on Planet Earth. It has a net drop of 3,651feet. Here’s some details that apply to both the full and half marathon routes with noted exceptions:​

Starting Location: 45.094411, -111.862213​

Near the turn-around point of the Madison Marathon on the Gravelly Range Road​Elevation: 8,592 feet above sea level​

Finishing Location: The alfalfa fields of the Bar 7 Ranch

Route: The starting line is within the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest and the route runs on the Gravelly Range Road to the US Forest Service gate and then on the Call Road to Varney Bridge Road near the Ennis Fish Hatchery (all gravel roads). Then, it runs along Varney Bridge Road to Highway 287 (pavement). From the turnoff onto Highway 287 to Ennis, it runs on Main Street to the finish line at Lion’s Club Park in Ennis. The half marathon finish line is amid the alfalfa fields of the Bar 7 Ranch.​

The race, for full and half marathoners, can be broken down into roughly three sections:​

Section One – This is from the starting line to the point on the route where the significant downhill begins. The starting line is at nearly 8,600 feet above sea level. It’s quite near the turn-around point for the Madison Marathon. The runners will not drop in elevation too significantly over the first seven or eight miles. There are few or no uphills on this section of the route. It is essentially flat and on top of the Gravelly Range though everything is eventually headed downhill. This entire section is within the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest. As runners get close to the border of the National Forest, there will be long, gradual down hills of two to three miles in length, but they will not necessarily be quad burners. The estimated distance is eight to 10 miles.​

Section Two – This is the quad burner section. It begins almost immediately after runners leave the National Forest. Runners will cross a cattle guard gate and then the next several miles will be a quite steep downhill. This is a series of switch backs that drop the runners from 8,600 feet to 6,000 feet in a relatively short distance. The “official end” of this section is when the road hits a t-junction after going through the Bar 7 ranch. The estimated distance is four to seven miles. The half marathon finish line is within this section.​

The half marathoners will reach the finish line near a large pile of white rocks on the Bar 7.

Awaiting all at the finish line is the beauty and calming waters of the Madison River. We are working on an alternative route for the lower half of the Big Sky full marathon. Our goal is to finish everything at the Varney Bridge Fishing Access site right on the Madison River. More info on this to follow.