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Ascending Mount Sentinel

Photo by Brooke

Even in a town like Missoula — where exercise and fitness are a big part of the culture — I’ve gotten some pretty funny comments and questions about running. Probably my favorite came from a golfer who was playing the hole next to the hill at the University of Montana Golf Course on a hot September day a few years ago. After my teammates and I had done three or four hill sprints, he jokingly yelled out, “Are you folks OK mentally?”

One of the most common questions I’ve received also has to do with a hill — the big one behind campus with the M on it.

When I was still running for UM, people always wanted to know: “Do you guys run up Mount Sentinel quite a bit?”

It seems like an obvious place for a workout — which is probably why people were always so surprised when I told them that we actually never practiced on the M trail. In fact, the only time I ever used the mountain for a running workout was during freshman orientation the summer before I started college.

On that climb, I ended up re-injuring a knee that I had been rehabbing for months, and I had to take several days off to let the inflammation go down — which is the exact reason why we never held practice on the hill. Running up that many steep switchbacks puts a lot of strain on your muscles and connective tissues. That, combined with the force your legs must absorb on the way back down the mountain, makes the risk of injury very high.

Mount Sentinel might seem like an exciting challenge for runners, but I would recommend alternating between running and walking to reduce your chances of getting hurt — at least until your body is used to going uphill for an extended period of time. Plus, you’ll have more opportunities to take in the gorgeous view of the Garden City.

Brooke is a 2010 graduate of The University of Montana, where she ran track and cross country for the Grizzlies. She is currently working as a writer and editor in Missoula.

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