By Tyler Allen Explore Big Sky Staff Writer
GARDINER – Geoff Faerber took his own life in Sept. 2011 after a prolonged
fight with depression. The Big Bear Stampede on Sept. 21 in Gardiner, Mont.
will memorialize Faerber’s life and bring awareness to those living with
An 8K trail run – with a 5K option for participants looking for a mellower
challenge – the Stampede will start and end at the Eagle Creek Campground
northwest of town and take the 8K racers to an elevation of 7,000 feet,
according to race director Nick Ricardi.
“I’ve done a lot of trail runs,” Ricardi said. “I don’t think it’s more difficult
than anything out there, but [it’s] as hard as what I’ve seen.” This is the first
course Ricardi has designed, but he’s an avid runner, a former coach and has
competed in the John Colter, Jim Bridger and Rendezvous Mountain races.
The event begins Friday night, Sept. 20 with a presentation at the Gardiner
School by Billy Mills, the 10,000m gold medalist in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
The only American to ever win the event, his victory is considered one of the
greatest Olympic upsets. “It’s a great talk that he gives,” Ricardi said. “Even
if you’re not a runner, it’s worth the trip to Gardiner.”
Awarded the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal by President Obama for his
work with the Running Strong for American Indian Youth organization, Mills
will speak about his life growing up on a Lakota Sioux reservation, losing his
brother to suicide, discrimination during his collegiate racing career at
Kansas University and the dramatic win against one of the greatest fields of
10,000m racers ever assembled. Mills will also be race martial and give
words of inspiration to runners at the starting line.
The Big Bear Stampede is meant to challenge racers but also to bring
awareness to the high suicide rate in Montana and Park County. Montana’s
suicide rate has been near the top in the nation for the past three decades
and Park County – with only 16,000 residents – experiences 6-10 suicides per
“Depression is a real illness and a big issue in Montana,” said Geoff’s mother
Pam Faerber. “[Suicide] is not a statistic Montana wants to be leading in.”
Since her son’s death, Pam made it her mission to learn everything about
depression and anxiety. She found there are only 21 centers nationally able
to handle patients with severe depression. The closest one to Montana is at
the University of Colorado-Denver.
“I don’t want other families to be where we were in that last year,” Pam said.
“We knew Geoff needed help but didn’t know where to go. There’s a huge
gap in services when you know someone is in severe depression.”
Geoff owned the Flying Pig Adventure Company in Gardiner, was an avid
runner, cyclist and skier, and “was a great promoter of Gardiner,” said
Debbie Demaree, an event organizer and former owner of the Food Farm
(now the Gardiner Market).
“I hope a lot of people decide to come up and support the race,” Ricardi said.
“We’d like to see it keep going for a long time.”
For more information about the race, registration and resources for dealing
with depression, visit bigbearstampede.org.