Marathon record has stood for 40 years
A marathon 45 years ago that featured seven entrants, with only five completing the course, was the starting point for what is today’s Royal Gazette Bermuda Triangle Challenge weekend.
At the time it was known as the Bermuda International Marathon. Among the original competitors was Bermudian long-distance legend Ray Swan, who finished third.
The race was held on January 15, 1975 — a day of high winds and rain. Canadian Olympic marathoner Andy Boychuk won in 2hr 25min 14sec, having led from start to finish. He was almost 10 minutes clear of second place runner Doug Sourar, also from Canada.
The marathon started on a field at the National Stadium (now the National Sports Centre), headed east along Middle Road and then onto North Shore Road at Flatts, before looping around Harrington Sound and going along the south shore and eventually back to the stadium.
Boychuk, who had finished tenth in the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games, was seen to admire the sights as he ran along south shore, and afterwards said: “I was enjoying myself and I was looking at the scenery all the way around. You have a beautiful island.”
There was no marathon in 1976, but it has been held every year since 1977.
Andy Holden remains the king of the race, winning in three consecutive years from 1979. His event record of 2:15:20 still stands, 40 years after he achieved it in 1980.
When he won the 1979 race, the English athlete was in the middle of a 200-day training spell that consisted of running 15 miles each and every day, including the day before the race.
A legend surrounds Holden’s record run of 1980. It is said that his race preparations were unorthodox, in that he drank many pints of beer at the Henry VIII restaurant in Southampton the evening before the race.
When asked by The Royal Gazette in 2007 to verify the story, Holden said he had drunk “quite a few” and noted that a buddy who was with him drank so much that he ended up ordering two suppers because he couldn’t remember eating the first one.
Recollecting the race, he said he tucked into a group of runners and after 11 miles decided to push harder, which took him well clear of the pack. He smashed the course record he’d set the previous year by 2˝ minutes. The nearest anyone has since come to that mark is Russia’s Vladimir Kotov, who ran 2:17:00 in 1990.
In 2010, Holden said he was proud his record had stood for so long, and said running fast times in Bermuda would always be a challenge due to the demanding course, and factors such as the wind and humidity.
During his career he competed in a number of international championships, including the 3,000 steeplechase at the Munich Olympics of 1972. Holden died in 2014, aged 65.
The first women’s marathon title in Bermuda was won by local Debbie Butterfield, in 1978, in 3:00:16. She went on to compete in two US Olympic team trials for the marathon in 1984 and 1988, and was a top five finisher in the Boston Marathon during the 1980s.
The women’s marathon event record in Bermuda is held by two-time winner Elena Makolova, of Belarus, who ran 2:40:32 in 2002.
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