By Maria Wyllie
Explorebigsky.com Associate Editor

BOZEMAN – Founded in 1973, the Big Sky Wind Drinkers are Montana’s first running club. According to their website, the sport of running was gaining popularity among the mainstream population in the 1970’s as a way to stay fit, to get outdoors and to spend time with like-minded people. However, the state of Montana had very few organized runs and no structured running clubs.

So runners Frank Newman and Andy Blank decided to change that. The two men were out having dinner on the eve of the 1973 Annual Beartooth Run when they drew up a charter on a napkin, signed by them and their waitress, Shelley Hoyt, as witness. It read:

“Be it known that on 30 June 1973, Frank Newman and Andy Blank in Red Lodge, Montana organized the, yet to be named, club in the interest of promoting physical fitness through running/jogging and competition. Although physical fitness is the aim, it is recognized that individuals will differ in their prowess and adroitness as runners. Therefore, it is not important how fast one runs but that one runs.”

The Wind Drinkers’ official motto is “fitness cannot be borrowed, bought, or bestowed; like honor, it must be earned,” but the charter’s last sentence represents the club’s underlying philosophy.

“Our philosophy truly falls around that it’s not how fast one runs, but that one runs,” said Big Sky Wind Drinkers President Kurt Buchl. “Everyone is welcome. We are a running group for every age, sex, class type and physical ability.”

Inspired by Montana’s wild horses, the club was named “Big Sky Wind Drinkers.” Their inaugural run was the Super Relay, a 24-hour nonstop race. The One-Hour Indoor Run, the Bridger Bowl run, and the Turkey Trot were also held in affiliation with the club shortly after. They even hosted the first Governor’s Cup Marathon in May of 1974.

These traditional runs continue today, although some names have been changed. Upcoming runs include this month’s John Colter Run, the Bridger Bowl Ski Conditioning Run in October, and the Turkey Trot in November.

The club also hosts “fun runs,” which are free and open to the public. Members meet weekly in the summer and monthly in the winter. Buchl says some of the benefits of membership include weekly emails with information on the running world and other running events in the valley, as well as the fun runs which are a great way of making friends with other athletes, and promoting good health and activity by getting out and enjoying the trails.

Summer and winter fun run schedules, along with information on membership and upcoming races, can be found online at winddrinkers.org.