Dylan Humberger had a plan before Saturday’s Jim Bridger Trail Run. He knew the race would begin fast because of the flat start on a road. Then he knew the single-track trail’s “gnarly” conditions might force him to slow down.

So right before the Middle Cottonwood trailhead, Humberger pushed himself as he traveled uphill because he knew what would come next. He previously competed in the race in 2015 and 2016 and called it his favorite trail race in Bozeman.

“It felt like a normal trail run except I wasn’t ever stopping,” Humberger said. “The spots where I normally stop and rest and look at the view, I instead just kept running. It was super fun.”

The strategies Humberger employed resulted in a first-place finish in the 26th annual Jim Bridger race in 1 hour, 19 minutes, 35 seconds. As Humberger finished, he clicked the watch on his wrist, bent over and caught his breath. He was followed by a wave of runners who endured the morning drizzle with mud splattered on the back of their legs. Jenette Northey came in first place among women with a time of 1:30:54.

The 10-mile race featured more than 2,000 feet of elevation gain and a path along the Bridger Foothills Trail. The loop started and finished near the Sypes Canyon trailhead. Clouds covered nearby peaks, and the 245 runners handled the elements throughout the course. Proceeds benefited Bridger Ski Foundation, which aims to fundraise about half its annual program costs to limit fees for families.

“I grew up running around these trails,” Humberger said, “and I just love running the trails.”

Humberger graduated from Bozeman High last year and competed in track and field and cross-country at Division II Western Colorado as a freshman. Though he’s not planning on continuing with the teams in order to pursue other interests like skiing and climbing, he enjoyed his experience. In training, he liked having a challenging workout while still running alongside a dozen teammates instead of only a couple in high school.

The work he put in throughout the season helped prepare Humberger for Saturday as he finished nearly two and a half minutes before anyone else. Edward Cleary placed second among men in 1:21:59, followed by Christian Gostout in 1:22:28 in third.

“I just love it because you get some really hard uphill, really fun downhill coming down,” Humberger said, “and there’s a lot of people hiking up the trail up Sypes that say hi and cheer you on as you’re coming down. It’s super fun to do.”

Humberger didn’t come across snow in his path, but he saw piles alongside the wet, slippery trail. When he’d pass over a crest, he could only see clouds at times. Despite the weather, Humberger added that the only really muddy spots were in places he’d probably walk anyway.

As he started heading downhill from the last aid station at the top of Sypes Canyon, Humberger realized the separation he created from everyone behind him. He knew he wouldn’t decelerate going downhill so he had time to contemplate being in first place before crossing the finish line.

“I was just happy I didn’t need to run anymore,” Humberger said.

Northey, meanwhile, had never previously competed in a trail race. Friends told her she should sign up for the Jim Bridger race so she gave it a shot.

Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, Northey enrolled at Montana State in 2013 and competed with the Bobcats’ cross-country and track and field teams. Her main event in track and field was steeplechase, which she said may have helped with her agility Saturday.

But entering her senior year, Northey tore the ACL, MCL and meniscus in her left knee. She raced a few times as a senior but wasn’t competitive. She wasn’t fully recovered until more than a year after sustaining the injuries.

Saturday’s race provided the opportunity for her to reflect on what she’s experienced the past three years.

“It’s a blessing to be out here,” Northey said. “I’m just so thankful to be able to go out there and do that after walking through that.”

Earlier this week, a close friend of Northey died of cancer who she thought about during the race. While she prayed she wouldn’t fall, twist an ankle or get hurt again, Northey pondered the opportunity she had just to be racing at all.

“I don’t deserve to be out here,” Northey said. “I was thinking that coming down here. I was like, ‘This is amazing.’ … Life is quick. To be able to be out here and enjoying doing what we love is such a gift. I’m just so thankful.”

Though Northey’s vision occasionally became blurry in the fog and she nearly slid off the trail a few times, she managed to keep her balance and composure.

After crossing the finish line, Northey was followed by Emma Tarbath (1:31:21) and Renae Anderson (1:33:12), who finished second and third among women.

“You always hope you win,” Northey said. “When you’re a competitive runner for so long, you think about it, but I was kind of chill. Whatever it is, it is.”

For Northey, it was a first-place finish in her first trail race.

Paul Schwedelson can be reached at pschwedelson@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.

Paul Schwedelson is a sports writer for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.