This run had better be worth it, I’m thinking as I wind further and further south into Montana, putting even more hours between me and my friend’s house in Great Falls. Part of me wanted to bag the whole thing and just head up north. Small town races have the potential to be a little boring, especially if it’s not YOUR small town.

This was not the case with the Night Owl Run. It’s a good thing I’d kept the car trained towards Livingston.

The only problem with the Night Owl Run is that it’s in Livingston, the gateway to Yellowstone National Park. This means that hotel rooms (especially in the summer) are booked or too expensive.

The great thing about the Night Owl Run is that it’s in Livingston – a town with a gorgeous backdrop, a cute downtown area, and friendly people willing to give you beer.

Yup, beer. Usually I’m not a huge beer-after-running fan, but I’d just consumed a post-race hamburger (free), and a hot dot (free), so a beer (free) seemed appropriate. Plus race participants get to keep the nice pint glass.

The race was not so long and hard that I really needed to consume the equivalent of two dinners afterwards. I was just so impressed with the spread I felt the need to partake in all that was offered. Usually races are in the morning and finish line corrals include oranges and bagels. A barbeque is a definite perk to nighttime races.

So is the temperature and scenery. The four and a half mile race stated at seven o’clock in the evening, right as the sun was setting, casting dramatic shadows on the golden foothills and dramatic peaks beyond them. I’d warily looked at the foothills before the race had started, worried that we’d be running up them. Flashbacks of a very slow half marathon in Inner Mongolia plagued me for the first mile. But luckily the course just had a few minor rolling hills. Even though it was a little windy and I had to remind myself to stop staring at the snow capped Rockies and focus on the race, I kept up my 8:30 minute mile pace. It’s a pace I hope to maintain next month in the Disney World ½ Marathon as well. “Hope” being the operative word in that last sentence.  

Another race perk was the costume contest, gifting a price of $50 to the runner who ran in the best owl costume. The winner was Ted Madden, with his homemade getup. His daughters (aged nine and eleven) had hosted a sleepover the night before the race, and creating an owl costume for their dad had been the evening’s project. I forgot to ask him if he was going to give the prize money to his girls or if he was going to use it for future race entries.  

If you want to do the Night Owl Run next year, check out their website at http://nightowlrun.com. The race has been an annual event, already scheduled for August 24th in next year’s 2012. This year’s registration fee was $25 if you registered in advance (which could be done online) or $30 if you registered the day of race.

As a former XC runner, I love that some of the proceeds go towards a scholarship for a Park High Cross Country team member. As a teacher (and, you know, a human being), I love that additional funds are donated to local afterschool and backpack programs. Besides supporting kids in Livingston, this race has a great setting, great food, great beer, and great ambiance. The Night Owl Run is one small town race that’s definitely worth traveling out of your way for.