The Rut: A Celebration of Trail Running

Runners headed along a dramatic ridgeline, part of the Rut race

In 2013, The Rut Mountain Runs started off as a 50k and 12k race. This year will mark the 11th iteration of the race, drawing racers from all over the world to over seven different events.

We connected with Mike Foote, event organizer for the Rut, to learn more about his passion for trail running and what it takes to pull off one of the largest trail running festivals in North America.

Q&A with Mike Foote

Rut Race runners headed towards the next peak over rocky terrain

What inspired the creation of this race, and what has it taken to go from the first race to where it is now?

I love the beautiful and dramatic mountain landscapes of Montana. I love the trail running community here. I feel it’s a special place with special people.  Also, I’ve had the pleasure of racing all over the world as a professional athlete for over a decade now.

After many trips to Europe to race some of the biggest races in the world, I wanted to bring a bit of my experience home to the place and people I love most. In the mold of these large trail running events in Europe, I wanted the Rut to be more than just a race, and I wanted the terrain and course to be truly challenging. 

We were so lucky to land this event in Big Sky, because the terrain is out of this world, and the infrastructure was in place to grow the event into one of the largest trail running festivals in North America.

A racer throwing a "hang loose" hand sign as he heads up a steep slope

What challenges and opportunities come with hosting an event of this magnitude in a place like Big Sky, Montana?

As the event grows, so does our strain on the infrastructure of our host, Big Sky Resort.  Luckily, they are great partners who care about the event, and we communicate early and often about logistics, safety, participant experience, and so much more, as the event grows year to year.  

Of course, for those out of state, it takes some work to get to Big Sky, but I believe it’s worth the effort once you arrive. Also, as the event has grown it’s been important that we maintain a grassroots local feel, so folks feel like they are having a unique experience in a unique place. That’s so important to us as we grow the event.

View from above of the difficult Rut Race Course

Recreating in the outdoors can unfortunately come with a variety of barriers for participants. Can you tell us about your partnership with the Inclusive Outdoors Project?

Spending time in nature should not be only for the privileged.  Time outdoors is good for our physical and mental health, and therefore our public health.  Trail running is a great way to experience time outside and for some it might not feel like an accessible space due to a variety of reasons.  

For the last two years, we have partnered with Inclusive Outdoors Project to create space for runners from historically marginalized communities to join us at the Rut. We have held 50 spots for folks through this program and offered need-based scholarships to remove financial barriers for those that need it. We had close to 60 applicants in 2023.

Runners crossing the Rut finish line

What pieces of advice would you give to those who are interested in entering their first trail running race?

Find something that motivates you. Ideally, a goal that stretches you and is a bit scary but not unrealistic.  Also, sign up and then train with a friend.  That time together and accountability to show up and work together towards a shared goal may be more valuable than the event itself.

About the Rut

The Rut 2023 is officially sold out. However, if you are interested in learning more you can check it out at

Mike Foote is a professional mountain endurance athlete and the co-founder and Race Director of The Rut Mountain Runs.  He lives in Missoula, Montana, with his wife and son.

Photo credit for all images: Steven Gnam