Running in the 'Meda: The fitness scene

Running in the 'Meda: The fitness scene

Marty Beene

"Mommy! Mommy! There's a runner coming!" -child in a driveway as my dad approached along the sidewalk in 1987.

"Oh, never mind. It's just an old man."

This was my dad's experience jogging around the neighborhood shortly after he and my mom retired and moved to my mom's native land of Billings, Montana. At that time, much of the country was well into one of several 20th century fitness booms, with many people discovering marathon running, long distance recreational cycling, and other forms of exercise. But it didn't seem to have taken hold in Billings yet, which was why the child was so excited to report to his mother that this "runner" was approaching.

When I visited at that time and for some years afterward, I hardly ever saw other runners when I went out for a run, and most people would give you that "what on Earth are you running for" kind of look.

With that said, however, there were certainly some strong athletes. I recently found race results from a 10k I ran when visiting in late 1987, and a guy I met years later had run a stellar 32 minutes. But that was only good enough for second place. I even ran a respectable 41 minutes, yet - in that "unfit" area - 47 of the 150 runners beat me. In fact, I was third-to-last in my age group. Wow.

This past week, I visited Billings again, and went for a run each day. What a difference from 17 years ago! Each day I encountered at least a dozen other runners, cyclists, or walkers, even though I was working out when most people were working. I saw several gyms along the main streets, and CrossFit or similar ads or bumper stickers seemed to be everywhere. Bike lanes are part of all of the major streets, and, yes, people do use them. Billings has been working on a paved recreational trail over the past several years that will ultimately allow users to circumnavigate the entire city. I never saw the trail empty while I was in town.

As a fitness professional, I do notice what the fitness scene is like whenever I travel somewhere, and I was definitely pleased to see what is going on in Billings.

Where have you traveled recently, and what was the fitness scene like there?

Marty Beene, a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and specialist in senior fitness and fitness nutrition, is owner of Be The Runner; he trains adults of all abilities individually and in groups. He can be reached at