BEMIDJI -- Saturday wasn’t Sarah Kemp’s first time running around Lake Bemidji, but it was definitely the most memorable.

“I think it was a month ago, I came and ran around the lake for fun and it was kind of a rough run,” she said. “It was cold and windy, and I wanted redemption, so I came to run this.”

Kemp’s determination to have a better run paid off Saturday as the 31-year-old from Sauk Rapids took first place in the women’s division of the Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon.

“I have family here so I came mainly because I knew I’d have them for support, and it’s such a gorgeous city” Kemp said of her first time running the Blue Ox. “The first half went really well, and I was really on pace. Then after the first half, it was so hilly and I was going into the wind. It was a challenge, but it was a lot of fun.”

Kemp is no stranger to running. Saturday’s race was her 12th marathon, but her first win. Despite a tougher second half of the race, she said she felt confident she could maintain her lead and finished with a time of 3:15:30.

Andrea Nelson of Bemidji finished second with a time of 3:21:14. In last year’s inaugural Blue Ox Marathon, she finished third.

“I beat my time from last year, so I’m very happy with that,” Nelson said. “It was difficult when the wind hit on that back stretch, and it was a little hillier than I’d like, but it was still very pretty and enjoyable.”

Cosette Taylor of Winnipeg finished in third place, her 15th marathon, but first Blue Ox run. “This was a challenging course. It was much hillier than I anticipated” Taylor said. “But we had a really good group of runners who paced each other and encouraged each other.”

Taylor’s running mates, all from Winnipeg, Martial Hebert, Rebecca Cunnane and Chris Harbeck finished in a group.

Taylor focused on pushing herself in the final strides. “I was just working hard, supporting the other runners and they were supporting me,” she said. “It was a tough day. Given the wind and the hills, I'm very happy with my time.

“The volunteers were fantastic, it was beautifully organized and I really appreciated that. There was so much community support for this event.”

In Saturday’s 26K race, a new event this year, Andrea Kennedy of Winnipeg, Manitoba, took first place in the women’s division with a time of 2:07:44. Jill Anderson of Bemidji was second at 2:07:56, followed by Kristin Rognerud of Duluth with a time of 2:08:46.

In Saturday’s half marathon, Pam Olsen of Hendricks took first place in the women’s division with a time of 1:33:43. Casey Mork of Becker was second at 1:36:30, followed by Jasmine Carlson of Becida at 1:38:05.