HELENA — Mike Kaiser is no stranger to the Governor’s Cup marathon.

The 36-year-old is from Clancy and has participated in the event for years.

But he had never won the race.

That is until this year.

Kaiser led the pack of 47 runners, finishing with a time of 2:38:22.97 for his first Governor’s Cup marathon win.

His time was a 16-minute improvement from the personal best he set last year.

“This feels pretty amazing,” Kaiser said. “Taking 16 minutes off of my best time is pretty good. I really just focused on keeping a steady pace the whole way. I never let it go.”

Kaiser stayed with the pack to start, but he and Helena resident Matt Roberts started to pull away. By the 12th and 13th mile, Kaiser took the lead and only looked back for one reason.

His longtime friend was nipping at his heels.

“Running with Matt the whole way kept me going,” Kaiser said. “Having someone to push you like that really helps.”

As for Roberts, who finished second with a time of 2:39:21.61, he said there is always a friendly rivalry going on.

“He was in my sights, so I thought I had a chance,” Roberts said. “No better guy to lose to, but hell yes I want to beat him one day.”

While Kaiser will rest his legs and think about the next marathon he wants to run, he knows the Governor’s Cup will always hold a special place in his heart.

“It’s just such a great community event,” Kaiser said. “There are so many people down here participating and the governor is out there running. It’s just a really fun event.”

Brian Peterson from Oakfield, Wisconsin, finished third with a time of 2:48:15.00 to round out the marathon podium.

While the men’s podium finishers were catching their breath, Helena resident Betsy Ross was the first woman to crossed the finish line.

Ross, 33, didn’t run in the Governor’s Cup last year because of injury, but completed the comeback by finishing with a time of 3:07:16.97.

“I was definitely a little nervous not knowing how the course was,” Ross said. “I went out a little conservative and then after 8 miles I was feeling strong and kept the pace going.

Last year the Governor’s Cup race committee decided to change the course to make it where the runners did not have to cross any train tracks.

Because Ross had never officially run the course, she prepared by studying the elevation map and tried to simulate her own runs.

“I was practicing for the uphills, but I didn’t realize how much downhill running there was,” Ross said. “There were times where I looked down and it felt like I was going faster than I needed to go.”

Ross will take some time off until she decides to run in her next marathon. Right now she is just enjoying her win.

“It’s always special to race in your town,” Ross said. “This is our course. The last 6 miles I feel like I run it a lot, so it really felt like home.”

Alberta resident Rhonda Loo and Amanda Lawrence of Mansfield Center, Connecticut, rounded out the podium for the women.

Loo finished with a time of 3:16:44.22 while Lawrence crossed at 3:24:25.62.

Ryan Kuhn covers Carroll College athletics for the Independent Record and 406mtsports.com. Email him at ryan.kuhn@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @rskuhn

Carroll College sports reporter

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