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Apology accepted

Change for good: Lamont Marshall was a charitable winner of the Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby, reserving much praise for young runner-up Ryan Outerbridge and several others (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The 2024 Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby may go down in history as one for new beginnings. New with the finish line of the iconic 13.1-mile race being restored to Court Street; new with the arrival of 21-year-old Ryan Outerbridge as a live contender; new with Lamont Marshall appearing to finally embrace his role as an ambassador and champion we can look back upon with fondness.

The timing of the course change can be said to be a masterstroke by the organisers after the recent public relations disasters they had a significant hand in — first in the 2023 race when the non-Bermudian winner was allowed/ordered to overtake the lead vehicle in the greatest act of xenophobia seen in a local sporting arena, and then when “banning” non-resident runners altogether to ensure there could never be another Dennis Mbelenzi.

So on to Court Street, and rarely has this area of “Back of Town” been so vibrant. The finishing stretch was packed to the rafters, the pleasing smell of jerk chicken ever-present thanks to Jamaican Grill, and the runners imbued with a new sense of fulfilment.

It was thought that there might be some backlash when the organisers announced the new qualification changes, or closed gaping loopholes — and for a time there was from readers and commentators — but we Bermudians are such forgiving types that the field grew from the year before, with more than 1,000 either completing the entire distance or forming part of a relay team.

The presence of young Outerbridge represents the beginning of the passing of the torch, an act that is essential not only in sport but in all areas of industry. This indisputable fact apparently was not lost on Lamont Marshall.

Whether it was the college kid pushing him the distance or a penny finally dropping, the three-times winner — we shan’t be counting last year — figuratively turned a corner.

Gone was the brooding presence of the past two or more years who refused post-race interviews, treating media with utter disdain.

Gone was the keyboard warrior who instead of being gracious when declared the “winner” in 2023 resorted to fat-shaming his non-Bermudian rival on social media.

Gone, almost, was the sense of entitlement that suggested the derby should be for Bermudians only.

Not only did Marshall stick around for his media “responsibilities”, but he was effusive in his praise for Ryan Outerbridge, his family and coaches, third-placed Sean Trott, the organisers, the sponsors, photographers and even the weather.

OK, he couldn’t resist reference to “that foolishness from last year” and the presumption that the country deserves “three Bermudians going toe-to-toe” for the title, which if you wish to think the worst of him was a reversion to the xenophobic nature that so soiled the occasion 12 months ago.

But he continued — in a final nod to “that foolishness” — “that’s not me; that’s not in my nature.”

And in those eight words, if we’re clutching at straws, is a cloaked apology for last year’s conduct.

We were never going to witness an outright mea culpa to Dennis Mbelenzi and sports fans from a man who has felt more sinned against than sinner — especially by the media for reporting on personal troubles in the public domain not to do with athletics. But if you understand the body language and tinge of regret in those eight words, you’ll have to take the win.

So, apology accepted.

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Published May 27, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated May 27, 2024 at 7:27 am)

Apology accepted

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