Sick of Big Cities? Come run Big Sky Country!

Disclaimer: We received race entry to the Governor’s Cup to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about being a BibRave Pro (ambassador) and check out to review, find, and write race reviews!

Everything started out so simple! We arrived in Helena on the night before the race, checked into our hotel, and went to the packet pickup for our race bibs and t-shirts. We went out to dinner, came back to the hotel, and set out our gear for the next day.

It was at this point we discovered that I had forgotten my entire duffel bag at home.

Thankfully for me, Kelsey somehow had the instinct to pack her running gear separately, and offered me her own BibRave shirt for the race. I had also miraculously decided to bring my running shoes in a separate bag, so we managed to salvage a semi-respectable race outfit for me to use in the half-marathon. I wouldn’t have headphones to listen to music, and I had to wear a women’s shirt and Kelsey’s bright red hat, but I was going to finish this race!

On the morning of the race, I had accepted that I probably wasn’t going to have a great race. I didn’t even stress about a time, or even think about the pace I was hoping to maintain. In fact, since I needed to meet up with some of my students for the 5K after my own race (I teach 5th grade in a nearby city), that was my primary concern. This turned out to be a great approach to the race!

I rode the bus shuttle to the starting line with one of my best friends, and felt completely relaxed because I felt no pressure to perform. It reminded me of waking up for a college final with the full awareness that I was unprepared and likely to fail. After meeting up with a fellow BibRace Pro at the starting line (shoutout to Rory), I humbly moved myself to the back of the starting pack and waited to start.

As the starting gun fired and the race began, I embraced the lack of music and took in the sound of silence. One of the people running next to me was listening to Simon and Garfunkel very loudly so it carried over to me. I also appreciated the stillness of the country roads as we carried ourselves up and down rolling hills for the first seven miles of the race.

Watching the leader of the marathon blast by me without breaking a sweat was a bit intimidating, but I shook it off quickly and kept pushing alongside the river on the way into town. After running this race for the past two years, I knew the challenge of Cardiac Hill (named after the hospital that rests on the top of it and the health emergency that this hill has undoubtedly caused in the past) was coming up soon. One of the cool aspects of this race is that multiple race distances converge at once, so I was able to run alongside marathon runners, half-marathon runners, and 10K runners for the final three miles. We made our way past the governor’s mansion, the state capitol building, and into the historic downtown district. I even got to wave to some of my students near the finish line! I’m sure they will never forget this race, as it is the day they saw their 5th grade teacher wearing a women’s shirt and hat stumbling along in basketball shorts after 13 miles.

As I crossed the finish line and accepted an amazing finisher’s medal, I glanced down at my watch to complete my run and realized I had finished in under two hours! This was a shock since my most recent half-marathon had been completed at 2:15 in February. I found out later that I had finished 7th in my age group, easily the best finish I have ever made in a major race.

So I guess the lesson we learned is that you will run your best on the days you forget all of your gear! Just leave those tech shirts and shorts at home and watch the PR’s appear!

I cannot recommend this race enough, as the organization and structure of the event is top-notch. The coordinators care SO MUCH about you having a great time, and it shows throughout the day. Make the time to check out western Montana at the Governor’s Cup. You won’t regret it.

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