The RUT Leslie finished the epic 28K race in an incredible 7 hours 10 minutes

Note: To protect the privacy of the individual featured, we have changed small details.

K nife-edge ridges, sweat-licked runners, plumes of smoke ­­— and still the photographs don’t do it justice.

To know the Rut, you have to run the Rut.

Race Director, Mike Foote, said, “It’s a really unique course, so exposed, so challenging, there’s just an aesthetic to it that is beyond what you normally see in the lower 48.”

And that’s on purpose. The Rut is meant to capture the feeling of some of Europe’s biggest and most challenging races.

The stats alone are frightening: 7,800 feet of climbing, with a starting elevation of 7,218 feet and a high elevation of 11,235 feet at the summit of Lone Peak.

The Rut is the brainchild of Montana runners, Foote and Mike Wolfe, who wanted to bring European-style running to America.

“After thinking about it for about two years,” Foote said, “we landed on Big Sky Resort as a really great venue that would have great infrastructure for a big event and also have really challenging, steep, technical, beautiful terrain.”

The terrain does not disappoint.

The route takes runners along scree-strewn trails that wind up seemingly endless climbs. Mountain ranges peak through shallow clouds, acting as a picturesque backdrop as runners make their multiple ascents. At times, it feels like you’ve left the resort and trekked deep into Montana’s wild backcountry.

The 2017 race hosted nearly 2,000 runners throughout the four distances: the VK, 11K, 28K and 50K.

While the race does attract a number of professionals, the majority are amateurs, representing nearly all 50 states and several other countries.

After winning her entry to the race in a Film Festival raffle, Michigan runner Leslie Johnson, completed the 28K in 7 hours and 10 minutes, earning her a finish in the top quarter of all women.

“I was incredibly impressed with my performance," Johnson said. "I didn't know I had that kind of strength within me," ◊

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