Marathon man all set for his 22nd Bermuda Day race
When the airhorn blows to start Bermuda’s most popular half-marathon on May 24, it will be the 22nd time veteran marathoner Calvin Steede has set off in the race.
The 54-year-old Bermudian has run more than 100 full marathons at home, in Boston, New York, and soon he will head out for South Africa for the 54-mile Comrades Marathon.
But the Appleby Bermuda Day Half-Marathon will forever be one of his favourites, solely because of the Bermudians who line the streets to cheer for the participants.
Asked which cheering section pushes him on the most, he said the spectators along Cedar Avenue wins that title hands down if there was one for the best spectators.
“I have a few favourites, coming out of Somerset at the start, Burnt House Hill, Front Street and the overall spot that takes the cake is Cedar Avenue,” said Mr Steede.
“That’s the best cheering section of them all because no matter how bad you feel the people there keep you moving. It’s the best boost in the world because a few times I reached that spot and didn’t think I was going to make it.
“But when I get there I know I’m on the home stretch and that cheering section keeps you going.”
He was told in school at a young age that he was a good runner but never pursued the sport until he was about 30.
“A woman at my job wanted to make up a team for a corporate relay and I ran that year. We placed second overall and I always wanted to see what May 24 was all about so I tried it the following year. I came in after the first 100 runners and I did it in a time of one hour and 45 minutes.”
With the exception of one year due to surgery, he said he has run every year ever since.
Asked why he had done the race so many times, and whether he has been asked if there’s something wrong with him, he said: “Some people do say that but once I got into the sport I enjoyed it and found out how it benefits your health. I just kept going and that’s how I got into the actual marathon part of running.
“I was in Florida on holiday one year and the New York Marathon was on so I decided I was going to run in that race one day, and others. That’s how I got into the Boston Marathon the following year in 1993; it was the first time that I ran abroad.
“Since then I have run in nine New York Marathons and 17 Boston Marathons but I didn’t run in Boston this year because I’m going to South Africa on June 2 to run in the Comrades Marathon which is 54 miles.
“It’s a double, or ultra-marathon, and I have 12 hours to complete it; I’m aiming to do it in ten.”
Apart from a slight calf injury he said he is feeling great and looking forward to the upcoming race in Bermuda, which is always a special race for him.
“When I first ran it I couldn’t figure out why so many people run it. But once I did I found out it’s the Bermudian people who encourage you, just the way they cheer for all the runners; it’s just a great feeling. And once you finish it you feel that you’ve accomplished something,” he said.
As for the hardest section he said it would have to be “the last hill which is coming up King Street”.
“Burnt House Hill is a slow, easy climb, but once you get over it that’s it. King Street is the hardest because that’s the last hill and by the time you get there you have say to yourself ‘Oh God, this is my last hill’. After that the rest of it is all downhill.”
Asked if his feelings get hurt when a woman passes him along the route he replied: “It used to years ago, my children used to tease me a lot about that. They would say ‘oh, how many girls beat you this time’. Then finally I got over it and they got over it too, I have two children and they’re both adults now,” he said.
Once he finishes the race, in a show of sportsmanship, he goes back along the course to “pull up other runners who are struggling to help them finish”.
“I always go back and encourage them to make it to the finish line,” he said.
“The Bermuda Day race is one of my favourites but I have a few, the Boston Marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon that’s held in October. I go and do that one and I lead that race almost every year; I’ve been doing it for the last 15 years.
And he has no plans to pack it all in just yet. “I’m 54 this year but I plan to run as long as I can and I’ll be looking for my Bermudian crowds to cheer me on once again.”