Reaching for the clouds! One of these days I’ll actually be running in the clouds. I think it’s possible with some of the higher peaks along the continental divide.

I’m 19 days until my first official half marathon — Yellowstone Half in West Yellowstone, Montana — and I’m feeling good about the distance. I’ve run over 10 miles on several occasions during the past few months and have covered 13 miles twice in the past month. However, it’s churning up the hills that I’m still working on.

mount helena running montana

Last fall, I took an epic #fail in a 10k race up a hill. I finished but almost didn’t make it up the 1-mile climb that started the race. So over the winter, I’ve worked on climbing hills and more weights in the gym.

Last month, I completed a 12k race with several climbs. I finished in the middle of the pack at a respectable pace. Still walking, but at least I never stopped.

Yesterday, I took on Mount Helena on a long run. 9.5 miles through downtown and up the mountain — 1768 ft elevation climb, 2 miles straight uphill.

mount helena montana running elevation profile

Once ya get to the top, you can’t help but take a moment to soak in the views. On the summit, you can view the entire Helena Valley and see over most of the hills around town to the east. It’s a great feeling of isolation that’s literally a city park.

Growing up in Arkansas, I loved the rolling hills and rocky terrain of the Ozark Mountains and foothills, but those have nothing on the Rocky Mountains. In the south, access to the outdoors means urban bike trails and patio seats along the street. If you’re lucky there will be waterfront features along a river. But it’s a different story here in Montana. Not many capital cities have this kind of access to the outdoors and mountain trails.

Downhill on Mount Helena is quite the climb for a frequented trail, on loose gravel and steps in the trail. But if you run up, you’ve got to run down!

Can’t wait just a few short weeks for Yellowstone. The views are sure to be grand and the social atmosphere will be a great mix of people from across the country. No matter the results, it’s always a PR if you’re running the distance for the first time in an official race… Right?

Like what you see here? Sign up for my newsletter to be notified of future stories and weekly headlines. Click here to sign up.