ackson Pollock. That’s who I’m thinking of as every runner, including me, is splattered from knee to ankle with black dirt. It’s as if the abstract expressionist known for his drip paintings splashed a bucket of earth tones to decorate us. After months of clear, sunny weather, 20 straight hours of early September downpour has turned the inaugural Rut at Big Sky from a grueling trail race into something resembling a mud run. You’d think these brutal conditions would result in a group of scowling and cursing competitors, but you’d be wrong. As the lead group for the 12K division wraps around the side of Big Sky’s Andesite Mountain and funnels into a singletrack section like a huffing conga line of runners, there’s nothing but wide grins and heaving chests. I realize I’m smiling too, even while slipping on greasy dirt as my calves scream in protest. It’s hard to believe this is any fun, especially considering how bad I wanted to bail on the event earlier in the morning. For the entire drive to Big Sky, my windshield wipers bounced between the steady and frantic settings. Stacks of cotton candy clouds crawled out of the mountains lining Highway 191, as if the hills had held three months of hot summer sun and steamed as the first cold rain hit them. I’m getting my race packet and going home, I thought when pulling into a parking lot pockmarked with brown puddles. No one will even be here. Running in this is not something a sane person would do.