By: Sarah Kjorstad and Heather Lieberg

"Why in the world would I ever travel to Montana for a race?" you might ask. "Do they even run up there, or just drive big ass trucks all over big sky country drinking Miller Light?" you might inquire. Well, to you rural-running skeptics, or big-race-crowd elitists, I offer one of the best marathons in the lower 48, and I'd venture to say all 50, the Missoula Marathon and Half Marathon. Actually, many of us here do own fuel efficient vehicles and you can't go far in MT before hitting a microbrewery, but best of all, we RUN this state and we run hella fast.


Not only did Runner's World rank Missoula the best marathon in the US in 2009 for its exceptional organization, support, fireworks at the start, stunning serene mountain views and a concert pianist performing in his front yard, but this year will be the first time the event has included an elite field with a prize purse. True, this race won't have you doing the stutter shuffle the first 4.78 miles and you won't have fans screaming your name and rushing you on the course the entire route, but what you do get are exceptionally dedicated and organized event staff, and a fast, mostly flat course through picturesque country where you might get a whoop from locals on horseback. There are more than ample selections of hydration and fuel at the aid stations and the post race food is delish. You won't get Negative Nancy shaming you to save it all for the runners, this is the land of the community potluck, so politely help yourself! Another unique perk is, as soon as you fist pump your way across the finish line with your PR, you can stroll through the misters (no space blankets here folks), immediately look up AND print your results for instant gratification and cold hard proof to brag with at the office on Monday. And, as if that wasn't enough to bliss out to on your mountain-race getaway, there is a free, yes I said FREE, finish line photo to cap off your perfect race weekend.  

In true Oiselle fashion, we have a flock of birds gunning for the win in the half marathon on July 13th including a local fasty, Olympic marathon trials qualifier, and one of my favorite running buddies of all time, Heather Lieburg. I actually succeeded in getting Heather to sit for a few minutes to ask her about the upcoming race in Missoula where she will be competing in the 13.1...


Sarah K: Heather, What was your last race and how did it go?
Heather L: Governor’s Cup in Helena. I ended up winning in 1:17:24, but that was after I had to wait for a stopped train on the tracks. After about 20 seconds I decided to run through the ditch and climb a barbwire fence where I punctured my hand. After that, I was hyperventilating and stressed for miles 2,3 and 4 that I had tetanus and would need medical attention. After that things went pretty well, but it was a tough course.

What are your goals going into Missoula?
Honestly, I want to finish because 4 years ago I dropped out of the marathon at mile 23. I had a 102 degree fever and strep throat, but decided to run anyway. Now I have a lot of negative thoughts associated with this race that I need to overcome and reset. Also, I’d like to win..just kidding..but really I’d like to be in the 1:16's, but will probably run a 1:20 or 30. I always get nervous and think the worst because then it can only be better. Must be a coping mechanism.

Truly, since I am running the half in Missoula, I would like qualify for the half championships with 1:15. I think it would be cool to qualify for the Olympic trials in both the marathon, which I have, and the half.


What specific workout did you nail in the last month - that you got you pumped to race?
So far they have been difficult, but I am hoping tonight’s workout will be the one I nail! I have 20 x 300m with a 100m recovery jog. I am just feeling confident that I have been consistent with my workouts and my mileage at 80-90 miles a week. Maybe tonight will be “the one” though!

In the past your race day nutrition has been, shall we say, creative (i.e. hot tamales, red bull, diet coke). Are you sticking with this pre-race meal, or going with something a little more nutritious?
Ha Ha! The hot tamales were just with you at CIM (OTQ race) and the 5 mile race a few weeks later. Really, I am trying to be more aware of what I need to do before a race and taking better care of myself. I am trying to mature with regard to my race plan. I used to get up at the very last minute with just enough time to dress and be at the start, but lately I have been getting up at least 2 hours before the race, eating a bagel or something more substantial. I have incorporated Picky Bars recently, too. I still always have to drink a diet Pepsi though. It’s my coffee.

What are your future racing plans?
I am a teacher and have summers off, so I am hoping to get a really solid training block in this summer in preparation for Twin Cities Marathon in the fall. I am going for the “A” there. Even though I have heard Chicago is a faster course, so I don’t know why I am choosing Twin Cities. Who knows! I am just hoping for the “A" qualifier!