A near-record entry of 1,500 prepare for weekend of races
Bermuda’s roads are set to become a sea of humanity as the 38th Bermuda Marathon Weekend welcomes around 1,500 competitors to three days of races.
The ever-popular KPMG Invitational Front Street Mile races, along with the Bermuda Triangle challenge mile races will lift the curtain on the festival of running, with the first runners going under starter’s orders at 7pm on Friday.
The following morning the National Sports Centre is the venue for the HSBC Bermuda 10K run and walk, before the action returns to Front Street on Sunday morning for the HSBC Bermuda Marathon and Half-Marathon.
The bumper turnout of competitors for this year’s events is a far cry from the humble beginnings of the Bermuda International Marathon first held on January 15, 1975.
It was a day of high winds and heavy rain. Seven runners lined up at the start, and only five of them completed the full 26.2 miles.
The first marathon started and finished at the National Stadium (now the National Sports Centre). Two Americans, two Canadians and three Bermuda residents contested the race, which was delayed by a few seconds when the starting gun failed to go off.
The runners followed a course which headed east along Middle Road and then North Shore Road at Flatts, circling Harrington Sound clockwise before turning onto South Road at Devil’s Hole and running all the way along the South Shore before heading back to the National Stadium along Middle Road and Harbour Road.
Canadian Andrew Boychuk, 33, who finished 10th in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics’ marathon, led from start to finish and was seen to nonchalantly take in the sights as he ran along South Shore midway through the race. “I was enjoying myself and I was looking at the scenery all the way around. You have a beautiful island here,” he said afterwards.
The sparse field of runners battled headwinds along the South Shore Road, and also contended with rain during the race — not to mention many hills, which led one of the American athletes to describe the course as the toughest he’d ever experienced.
Boychuk won in a time of two hours 25 minutes and 14 seconds, stretching his lead all the time and being followed home by fellow Canadian Doug Scorar (2.35.04). Next to finish was Bermuda’s legendary long-distance runner Ray Swan in 2.43.14, before the Connecticut duo of Dean Perry (2.47.25) and Jack Bristol (3.03.25).
Bermuda’s Graham Lewis and Kenneth Ford did not finish. Lewis collapsed at Mizzen Top, on Harbour Road, while Ford called it a day at Pink Sands in Warwick.
“I felt good for about 22 miles but then I found it difficult. I thought Doug (Scorar) would have given me a better race,” said winner Boychuk, who was also the 1967 Pan-American Marathon champion.
There was no international marathon the following year, but the race returned in 1977 with over a dozen competitors. Scorar, who was the runner up in ’75, won in 2.27.44. The marathon rapidly grew in popularity and was augmented by a 10K race in 1978, the Front Street Mile races from 1989 onwards and a half-marathon since 1993.
In 2008 the Bermuda Triangle Challenge was created, offering competitors the change to compete over three races in three days - the mile, 10K and either the marathon or half-marathon. The first Challenge attracted 50 competitors, this year the event reached its 600 entrants limit.
The first marathon champion, retired as a professional runner in 1976. Today, aged 71, he lives in Camlachie, Ontario, where he still runs to stay fit two or three times a week.