Derby day controversy as non-resident crosses line first
Controversy surrounded Lamont Marshall’s fourth triumph in the prestigious Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby.
Marshall was second to cross the finish line with Dennis Mbelenzi first past the post at Bernard Park in a time of 1hr 12min 41sec, but he was deemed an ineligible winner as a non-resident and therefore unable to claim any awards.
Race organisers cannot say they were not warned about the prospect of mass confusion, as Mbelenzi finished second in the race last year and was also demoted, with the runner-up spot being awarded to Sean Trott.
A spokeswoman for the Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby was keen to point out the rules when asked about the controversy by The Royal Gazette.
“There really should be no confusion,” the spokeswoman said. “Dennis is not confused. You can see the rules on our website bermudamarathon.bm.
“There is no rule that a non-resident cannot enter. Anybody can enter, visitors, tourists, all are welcome. You can enter and race but you are only eligible for prizes if you are Bermudian or resident on island for at least six months before the race.
“All the rules are clearly published on the website and that has been the rule for years. Not just this year, for years.
“Dennis knows the rules. He knew the rules this year, last year and the year before that.”
The controversy evoked memories of the 1979 race won by Swiss runner Karl Kupferschmit.
However, Kupferschmit was later declared as the first visitor to cross the line and second-place finisher Gary Wilkinson named the Bermudian winner after a forum was held over the matter which also sparked public outcry.
With Mbelenzi’s winning effort not recognised, victory was instead handed to Marshall, who completed the 13.1-mile race from St George’s to Bernard Park in 1:14:23 for his first win in the race since 2019, with Trott taking second in 1:16:20 and Moses Mufandaedza third in 1:18:45.
Marshall, 38, was among a lead group of four who broke away from the rest of the field early to set the pace.
Trott was the first to attempt to move clear near the four-mile mark but was reeled in by by Mbelenzi, while a conservative Marshall was content to sit back and bide his time.
Marshall eventually caught the leaders around the sixth mile and Trott fell off the pace entering Flatts Village after experiencing some discomfort in his legs, leaving Mbelenzi and Marshall to fight it out.
Mbelenzi gradually distanced himself from Marshall over the closing miles to win by nearly two minutes.
Marshall and Mbelenzi were unavailable for comment after the race but revised runner-up Trott conceded his disappointment to have again missed out an elusive maiden victory and finish runner-up for the fifth time.
“I went for it hard and went out with the early group.” Trott said. “I didn’t want to be left behind to wonder what could have happened, so I gave it everything.
“I hung in and then around six miles Dennis really made a strong move and I was just hanging with Lamont and trying to stay with it.”
Trott, 33, would later suffer some discomfort with his legs that cost him any chance of the win but he has vowed to return stronger next year.
“We were really going hard the first six miles and my legs felt the impact,” he said.
“I just felt like someone hit me in the thigh and I was just hanging on from there. I hung with those guys until Flatts and then that’s where they got away, really.
“I gave it my all to put myself in it and was just a bit disappointed that my body didn’t co-operate in that middle point, but I am just going to put another year of work in and and hope for the best next time.”
Third-place finisher Mufandaedza held mixed feelings over his first podium finish in the event.
“It could have been better,” he said.
“I think I am in better shape than 1:18 but you run in the conditions, which were quite tough. It’s humid and the first three miles were very windy, so I kind of went by feel.
“I didn’t want to blow up in the end so I will take it, but I wanted more. I have been doing very good training all year round. It could be faster but I will take it.”
Former North Village and Bermuda midfielder Sammy DeGraff finished fourth in 1:20:18, with Kallan Richardson crossing fifteen seconds behind him to round off the top five.
“I have actually run faster in training, so to not get a time that I felt was suitable is not always encouraging,” DeGraff said.
“But at the same time I am really happy just to still be a part of it, even though things might not have gone exactly how I would have liked it. I am pleased and can’t really complain.”