Runners hit Missoula trails for ‘ultra’ tour of public lands

Long-distance trail running is exploding in popularity in Montana and across the nation and world. But despite that growth and the number of recreational and professional runners who call Missoula home, the city has never hosted an official ultramarathon — until this Sunday. 

At 7 a.m., up to 100 trail runners from around the Pacific Northwest will depart Dornblaser Field south of the University District and head to the hills. The timbered mountains and canyons east of Missoula — home to Pattee Canyon, Mount Dean Stone and the iconic university M — are a topographic Tetris game of land ownership and management. Some parcels are owned by the University of Montana, others by Five Valleys Land Trust. Much of the land is in the Lolo National Forest, but that’s interspersed with state trust lands and private property. And other land yet is Missoula city open space. 

Runners in the inaugural City to Sky 50K, organized by the nonprofit Run Wild Missoula, will see all of that.

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A brief trek along South Avenue to Mount Sentinel will be the last time the runners see pavement for many hours. Across 33 miles

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