BILLINGS - For nearly four decades, the push and drive behind the Montana Women’s Run culminated on race day as the streets of Downtown Billings filled with women of all ages and fitness levels.
“It's just fun, you know, the energy of the Women's Run has always been a lot of fun. There's always a lot of excitement,” said Juanita Tuttle, a Billings resident and longtime run participant. “People are happy to see generations of people doing it. I think it's an all-around good feeling.”
In 2021, for the second year in a row, the Saturday before Mother’s Day will look a lot different as once again women will complete the distance on their own or in small groups, on sidewalks, walking trails, or even on their home treadmills due to Covid-19 concerns.
While many moms, daughters, grandmothers, aunts, nieces, colleagues, and friends will miss that buzz again this year, for Juanita it actually creates an opportunity to bring back some of those old emotions and “connect” with her daughter.
Juanita's daughter, Shelby Erickson, doesn’t remember the first Women’s Run she completed with her mom, but she does remember the feelings behind the yearly event.
“I've done so many Women's Runs that is just kind of part of our tradition,” Shelby said. “I always remember meeting with the same group at the same place and then going all together, and during the run it was so much fun because it was all my mom's friends.”
As children do, Shelby grew, graduated from high school, enlisted in the military, got married, and then landed in Hawaii at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in 2019, just a few miles and half an ocean apart from her family and friends.
“My mom growing up has always been my stronghold. You can call me a mamma’s girl,” said Shelby.
That distance has been hard on their traditions, and a bit tough to take. Especially adding a pandemic on top of it.
“It was 14 months of not being able to see her, hug her,” said Juanita. “It was really tough for everybody. You know everybody's stuck at home and we felt it as much as anybody else.”
“I can't go out to coffee with my mom like I used to, and do things like that, but even doing the Women's Run… just a little bit, is one of those things that I feel like you can hold on to because it's virtual now,” said Shelby.
So last year Shelby paced out her run on the beaches of Hawaii while her mom took off up the trail with their dog Etta, taking pictures to send Shelby. Etta was not the same committed partner as her daughter once was.
“So I'd had about half of it done when I started coming back down the hill when Etta decided she was done,” laughed Juanita. “So I finished out on my treadmill.”
Juanita isn’t sure if Etta is more up for it this year, but this mom and daughter duo will again support each other this Mother’s Day weekend - be it three time zones and half an ocean apart.
“We're at a distance, and doing it at different times doesn't really make any difference for us,” said Shelby. “We are very close and just knowing that we did it is the biggest part of it.”