Mbelenzi and Norman crowned Labour Day champions
Dennis Mbelenzi and teenager Tilly Norman are the Labour Day 5K road race champions after commanding displays of front-running around the streets of Hamilton.
Mbelenzi achieved a personal best after opening an impressive lead that took him more than a minute clear of his nearest rival.
The 36-year-old ran 16min 50sec to smash his personal best for the distance by 39 seconds
“I wanted to run even splits and break 17 minutes for the first time,” he said. “I knew I had to do 3:23 for each kilometre.”
With that goal in mind, he set off at a sharp pace and had shaken off the chasing group by the time he cruised on to Front Street, where the morning sun beat down to add to the discomfort for the runners as the temperature topped 82F.
By the time Mbelenzi had navigated Crow Lane roundabout to head back along East Broadway for the final mile, he had an unassailable lead. He was rewarded with a lifetime best, but had the course featured fewer turns he feels he may have gone quicker; this year’s course included an additional four turns as it briefly detoured from Victoria Street to Dundonald Street to avoid construction work.
“The course has 13 turns and turnarounds, which breaks up your rhythm as you have to slow down and accelerate again,” Mbelenzi said. “I’m happy to have run sub-17 — and this is the first race of the season. I’ve been training a lot of long distance during the summer.”
Gunnar Falke, 41, was second and first master in 18:02, followed by Andrew Passmore in 18:11.
Among the women, Norman shone as she matched Mbelenzi’s almost stride for stride from the start line outside the Bermuda Industrial Union offices to City Hall car park. At that point she adjusted her pace to avoid running out of steam later.
The 14-year-old, who praised her Bermuda coach Victoria Fiddick, squeezed the race in before returning to boarding school in England. She is a track specialist and has run 4:49 for 1500 metres. She has ambitions to improve on that and also tackle 3000m and more 5Ks.
Like Mbelenzi, Norman noted the challenge of the twists and turns, which forced pace changes. However, the two 180-degree turnarounds in the latter part of the race gave her an opportunity to gauge the distance between herself and her rivals. “I was counting the seconds to see how much of a gap there was,” she said. Another indicator she used was measuring the time between the applause of the crowd as she passed and their cheers for the chasing runners.
Near the end she pushed hard on the Court Street incline from Front Street to stretch her lead and win the title. She was seventh overall in 20:37. Next to finish was Sarah Thompson, 40, first women master, in 20:54, followed by Leana Coetsee in 21:34.
There were 88 finishers in the main race, which was staged by Swan’s Running Club.
The junior 2.55km race was won by Matthew Elliott, 14, in 9:42, followed by Taylor White, 14, first girl, in 9:43, with Khari Sharrieff, 10, third in 10:33.
The 5K competitive walk was won by Aaron Tucker in 35:55, followed by Gilda Cann, first woman, in 37:03, and Roy Dixon in 38:21.
In the 5K road race, other age division winners among the women were: Kayla Raymond (16-19) in 22:12; Deborah Norman (senior master) in 21:45; and Lisa Ferrari (over-60) in 28:21.
Among the men age division winners were: J. James (12-15) in 24:26; Rolondo Wilson (senior master) in 21:27; Frederick Steede (60-69) in 22:00; and Mike Rickards (over-70) in 27:52.
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