The inaugural running of the Madison Marathon took place on the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend in 2008. With essentially no marketing funds available and a very late start to organizing the event due to high snow levels on the Gravelly Range combined with a lack of understanding of the US Forest Service event permit system, a total of 36 runners participated. The 2nd Annual Madison Marathon was held on Sunday, August 2, 2009. Again, with essentially no marketing funds or a website but with a better knowledge of the road route and a developing relationship with the US Forest Service, a total of 53 runners participated. The 3rd Annual Madison Marathon was held on Sunday, July 25, 2010 on the same road and using the same route.
The 5th Annual Madison Marathon will be held on Sunday, July 22, 2012. It will also offer full, half, and team marathon races. The goal for runner participation for the 5th annual race is 200 runners. The 10-year goal is to become a premiere international running event for professional and serious amateur marathoners around the world. They will have to run the Madison Marathon because they will need a high altitude, competitive race to prepare for the five major marathons in the world (New York, London, Berlin, Boston, and Chicago) as well as the Olympic Games.
From its inception, the MCEDC wanted to develop an annual tourism event that took the best advantage possible of a local asset within Madison County. The local asset was a good quality public road that was mostly above 9,000 feet in elevation. The demand for a unique, high-altitude foot race was apparent considering the enormous popularity of running and extreme sports in Southwest Montana and in reality in much of the United States. The conventional wisdom was that the local market of runners would ensure that the event would become a success early on simply by meeting existing demand. For example, the Ed Anaker Bridger Ridge Run in Bozeman caps out at 275 runners usually within 10 minutes of opening its online registration on active.com. Like the Bridger Ridge Run, word-of-mouth marketing from the Madison Marathon’s initial runners will put the event on the map. Adding to word-of-mouth and social media marketing, the high elevation aspect of the race will ensure that the Madison Marathon will become a well known regional, national, and international event for marathoners within a few years.