Butterfield wins May 24
Tyler Butterfield lived up to pre-race expectations after storming to a maiden Appleby Bermuda Day Half Marathon Derby victory in ideal conditions.
The Olympic triathlete covered the 13.1 mile course in 1:15.03, averaging 5:44 per mile, to become the first in his family to claim victory in the annual road running spectacle since mom Debbie Butterfield won the last of her seven women’s titles in 1987.
Policeman Stephen Allen finished second in a personal best time of 1:16.59 while Jay Donawa, the first Master (over-40), rounded off the top three in 1:17.14.
The lead swapped hands on three occasions during one of the most exciting races in recent memory.
Donawa set the pace for the first six miles before relinquishing the lead to Chayce Smith near the foot of Burnt House Hill in Southampton.
Butterfield, making his first May 24th appearance in three years, took the lead for good from Smith shortly after breezing past the seven mile mark on Harbor Road and never looked back.
The professional athlete showed absolutely no signs of discomfort as he gradually stretched his lead, only breaking stride when a police bike crossed his path near Red Hole in Paget and later on towards the finish line to exchange high-fives with adoring spectators along the road side.
Butterfield underlined his dominance after crossing the finish line more than a minute (1:16) ahead of nearest rival Allen.
“It’s nice to finally win and all in all it was a great day,” the 30 year-old athlete told The Royal Gazette. “It was a fun race and we had pretty nice conditions. It was a bit cooler than normal and the crowds were amazing.”
Butterfield entered the race as the firm favourite to claim Chris Estwanik’s vacated crown. Estwanik was unable to defend his title due to injury and Butterfield took full advantage of the situation.
“This was probably the one chance I will have to win so I didn’t want to mess it up,” Butterfield said. “Chris is definitely the fastest runner on the Island and it would’ve been nice for him to get that record (six consecutive wins).”
Butterfield ran within himself for the first four miles before stepping on the gas further down the course and leaving the rest of the field toiling in his wake.
“As a triathlete I don’t have the speed so I have to go out steady and believe you will come home strong,” he said. “Every year I’ve ran the second half better than the first so I tried to do that again. And it’s nice when you have a bit of a lead because you are then in control.”
Present to greet her victorious son at the finish line was proud mom Debbie.
“I’m really pleased for him and it’s wonderful and exciting,” she said. “It’s super to see Tyler come from behind because it’s a long way and a tough course and you have to be smart.”
Like Butterfield, Allen also came from further back in the pack to pip Donawa for second near the finish line and record a PB over the distance.
“Going into the race I knew we had some quality athletes so what I did was sit back,” said the football referee, who finished fourth in last year’s race. “I tried to run my own race and on Harbour Road I picked it up a bit and managed to pass Jay about a couple of metres before the finish line so I’m happy with second place.”
Donawa was visibly dejected over his failure to break his May 24th duck.
“It’s disappointing because I figured at 40 once again I had an opportunity to win but it was all to no avail,” said Donawa, who has finished runner-up eight times and third twice in the premier road race. “But at 40 I have to be realistic too. I’m not a young man anymore but at the same time I still felt that I was capable of winning.
“It wasn’t my plan to take the lead but that’s how it formulated. I was feeling good and then half-way through I started to come off the boil a bit and started to fatigue.
“But all credit to Tyler, he ran the smartest race and that’s why he finished first. He ran to his strengths.”
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