Rachel Dean and Sarah McKinney, a Havre City Council member, are marathon runners.
They train in Beaver Creek Park, enjoying the natural beauty as they run.
But to actually participate in even a half-marathon, the two had to travel to Great Falls, and for a full marathon, they had to visit Bozeman, Billings, Missoula or Whitefish.
None of those places offered the beauty of Beaver Creek, they thought to themselves. So why didn’t Havre hold its own marathon?
They spread the idea around town, but it didn’t seem to catch fire. Then Dean went to the Events Committee of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce. Skeptical at first, the committee eventually caught on and got excited about the prospects, thinking of the number of people the event would bring to town.
Havre’s first marathon won’t be until June 2020, but plans are already underway.
The tentative route for the full 26.2-mile marathon will start on the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, run through Beaver Creek Park, through Havre and end up at Montana State University-Northern.
A half-marathon will be held at the same time, starting between First and Second lakes in the park and proceeding to MSU-Northern.
A 5K race will be offered for casual runners, hopefully going through Havre’s Historic District to Northern.
Most of Havre’s tourist trade is “pass through” business, Dean said. People pass through Havre on their way to someplace else.
“Maybe they know what we have to offer, and maybe they don‘t,” she said.
Dean proposed tying the marathon in with Living History Weekend, when Havre historic attractions — the Clack Museum, Fort Assinniboine, Havre Beneath the Streets, the Hi-Line Heritage House Museum and the Wahpa Chu’gn Buffalo Jump — offer special attractions on the first Saturday of June.
Dean said runners could attend the historic events after the race, which should end around noon.
But she also hopes that historic displays will be set up along the runners’ path. She said maybe the Chippewa Cree Tribe could set up tepees, displays from the homestead era would be prepared and other historic attractions could be offered.
Her goal is to attract 250 runners.
The runners, their families and friends usually arrive in town the night before, she said, meaning hotels and restaurants should be filled up that night. And because attractions are being offered, some people would stay through Saturday night.
The community response has been terrific, she said.
The Chamber of Commerce has given the race its full support, and the Chippewa Cree Tribe, Bear Paw Development and city of Havre have all helped. Mayor Tim Solomon has agreed to have the fire department provide emergency services.
The group is applying for a $25,000 grant from the Montana Commerce Department’s tourism program. Jody Olson, executive director of the Chamber, said the project seemed to fit all the criteria the commerce department looks for in applicants.
The money will be spent mostly for marketing.
Dean said she hopes to advertise in Wyoming, Idaho, the Dakotas, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“If we don’t get the grant, I will be all over town with my hand out,” she said.
She said anyone who would like to volunteer in the effort should call the Chamber at 265-4843.