Member Spotlight: Brenna Cassidy

Where are you from? What brought you to Missoula? I am originally from northern IL, but have been in the west for quite a while! I worked in Yellowstone National Park studying wildlife while working on my bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin and moved out there full time after graduating. After some years, I felt the itch to go back to school and I got the opportunity to join UM’s incredible wildlife biology graduate program. How long have you been running? Why did you start? I ran on the cross-country team in high school but honestly only for the conditioning benefit for playing soccer! I started to really love trail running in college in WI, but after I graduated it was tough to balance with an intensely physical job. I would run when we weren’t hiking or skiing as much, especially after getting a dog, but I was always struggling a bit to find a good balance during our busy seasons.  You’re a busy doctorate student at the University in the wildlife program, how do you balance your time to incorporate running/walking into your busy schedule? It has been an absolute necessity for me! Since I work at home full-time now, I have found that I am much more productive if I can get out for even 30 minutes, than if I keep trying to grind away. I usually think over whatever I was working on and come back in a better headspace to take another look at it. Grinding straight up a hill really helps me clear those late afternoon cobwebs out of my head! So realizing that I am more productive if I walk away for a bit has made me really make it a point to schedule in runs and not let it slip away. Do you have a running or race motto? If so, what is it and why? Years ago, I was pretty nervous before my first half marathon, I hadn’t trained for it at all (whoops!). I didn’t know anyone there but met a few people as we were headed towards the starting line. I vividly remember a tall, extremely fit man with long plaited blonde hair, wearing a kilt, looking at me and saying “Races are like mullets, business in the front, and party in the back.” I will NEVER forget that phrase and we happily ran together solidly in the middle of the pack that whole race! If someone is looking to get involved in the running and walking community in Missoula, what advice would you give them? It is tough to find new running partners and opportunities during a pandemic! When they start again, the trail running classes are a great way to get motivated while meeting new people. The Missoula running community has been so welcoming and supportive that there is always someone out there that wants to get out there. Are you training for any races or have any goals this Spring? I really love planning out objectives with friends, so this year I hope to do a few bigger loops in the Bitterroots and into Idaho, preferably anything with a good alpine lake along it. I had deferred the Elk Valley 50k in Fernie last year but we will see if that happens in July! I am also looking forward to returning to the Yellowstone area in September for the Yellowstone Gateway 30k. Do you have a favorite race or run that you’ve done? What was it and why was it your favorite? This isn’t a single run, but every year I try to do a “Peak-a-Week” from Memorial Day to Labor Day where I get on a new peak every week. With Covid mitigations this last summer, I went to some less popular areas that just blew me away! I did a few solo runs on the Stateline trail to link peaks that were absolutely breathtaking. It was a great reminder that there are so many hidden gems in our backyard that are hardly touched. What (or who) is motivating you to stay active during these trying times? I have a heeler mix that is a little too good at reminding me every day that we need to get out. This winter, it has also been highly motivating to get out with friends that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to see at all! I love winter, but having happy hour in the yard like we did in summer is slightly less appealing right now. I am looking forward to the day we can do group runs, along with post run beers and food, more safely. Where is your favorite local trail route to run around Missoula? I have been running on Sentinel constantly! We are so lucky to be ringed in wilderness around Missoula, but this winter I have been very happy running straight from my front door.

Finish this sentence: When I’m not running, I’m… Likely covered in pottery clay, fawning over my ridiculously sassy dog, or trying to work at my desk while on a balance board (my new goal!).