It was hot early and it only got hotter. While some spectators hiked up the "M" trail to secure prime viewing spots, a small crowd gathered near the finish line and looked up the mountain, waiting anxiously for the first runner to appear. 

Others sought shade until shortly after 10:30 a.m., when the cheering started. A few minutes later, Mark Egge, of Bozeman, came around the hillside and cruised to a first place finish at the annual Ed Anacker Bridger Ridge Run with a time of 3 hours, 35 minutes and 9 seconds. 

"In the back of my mind I hoped," Egge said. "You never know."

The 34th iteration of the rugged trail race brought 268 participants to Fairy Lake early Saturday morning for a hot 20-mile jaunt across the spine of the Bridger Mountains. 

Saturday's temperatures were expected to reach the high 90s. Organizer David Summerfield said it was one of the hotter days in race history. The conditions resulted in slower times for many runners and kept course records safe for another year. 

Even without high heat, the course itself is a challenge. Runners have to hit certain checkpoints along the way, but Summerfield said there's spots where runners are moving through loose rock without any discernible trail. 

"It's an adventure run," Summerfield said. 

The race is a tradition for some locals. A few past participants showed up around 9:15 a.m., just to watch, admitting that the morning of the race still gets them excited.

For Kristina Trygstad-Saari, it's a family tradition. Her mother has run it 21 times. Her father ran it 11 times, and her brother has also done it. 

Saturday was Trygstad-Saari's fourth attempt. She was the first woman to cross the finish line, with a time of 4:01:37, though she'd hoped to be faster. 

"Today was a very challenging day for me," she said, noting that the heat had taken its toll on her. "I just tried to keep moving." 

It was Egge's first time on the course. The 32-year-old lives in Bozeman and works remotely as a transportation planner.

He prepared by spending a lot of time running trails and consulting with past participants, who advised him to take the first half of the course easy. He said he started pushing at the top of the Saddle, which is when he knew he was doing well.

"I felt really fresh," he said. 

Once it was over, he found a shirt and a beverage and stood by the finish line to congratulate the runners who came behind him. Heat or no heat, he was enjoying being the winner. 

"I'm just elated," he said. 

Michael Wright can be reached at mwright@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2638. Follow him on Twitter @mj_wright1. 

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