Runners have different reasons to lace up for the Prickly Pear Land Trust’s Don’t Fence Me In trail run, but one thing most seem to share is a fondness for the paths they’ll tread Saturday morning in the hills south of Helena.
The event begins near Anchor Park with the 30-kilometer race at 7:30 a.m. That will be followed by the 12K at 10 a.m. and the 5K at 10:30 a.m. There’s also a 5K dog walk at 10:45 a.m.
The event serves as a major fundraiser for the Prickly Pear Land Trust, a nonprofit organization committed to protecting open space in Lewis and Clark, Jefferson and Broadwater counties.
“It’s one of our two biggest fundraisers, but this one reaches so much more of the community and touches people who use trails,” said Kelli Butenko, PPLT events and outreach coordinator. “It’s a good chance for people to get out and use this great resource we have right at the edge of downtown.”
The PPLT maintains the trails used for the race, which typically raises more than $30,000 annually — largely through donations solicited by participants.
“It really showcases Helena’s great trail system, it finishes in a cool area near downtown and it’s a benefit for a great cause,” said Missoula’s Mike Foote, who was fourth in the 30K last year and will run the same event Saturday.
Last year’s 30K winner, Jared Scott, is the only 2011 champion who is preregistered for the event. Matt Byrne, who was runner-up to Scott last year, also is expected to compete.
“I am looking forward to this one,” said Scott, a 29-year-old from Grand Canyon, Ariz., who ran competively for the University of Colorado. “I love how you run up the mountain right off the bat, then with about five miles to go, before you begin the descent back into Helena, you run this big flat stretch through a meadow, and it’s beautiful up there.”
As of Thursday afternoon, 493 people had preregistered for one of the four events, and organizers expect 100 or more to sign up on race day.
The 30K, which has 143 athletes registered, is part of La Sportiva’s Mountain Cup Series — responsible for Scott’s trip north to compete in the event for the first time last year. Scott won the series last year and arrives in Helena second in the 2012 standings with five of the 10 events remaining.
“I think the series is great because it brings out a lot of competition on the trails,” said Scott, who collected $5,000 for winning the 2011 series. “It gives people an excuse to go to a place like Helena and the Prickly Pear folks do a really good job with the race.”
Foote, an ultramarathoner who is sponsored by The North Face, considers the 30K distance short but fast. He has a couple 100-mile events on his calender this summer, but while this race may not be the ideal distance for him, Foote said it’s an event he didn’t want to miss.
“I just decided to run it a couple weeks ago. It’s one of my favorite races in Montana, I just enjoy it so much,” said Foote, who will compete in Wyoming’s Bighorn 100 in June and France’s Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in August.
Butenko said the event, which is supported by about 120 volunteers, will feature La Sportiva and Hammer Nutrition booths.
“It’s a really big day for us and we hope it’s a cool event for the community,” she said.