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Defending champion expects tough challenge

Fierce competition: Estwanik expects to be pushed hard as she chases a fifth win

Ashley Estwanik is expecting some keen competition from Deon Breary and Rose-Anna Hoey as she bids for a fifth Appleby Bermuda Half Marathon Derby victory on Monday.

Estwanik shattered the women’s record last year for a fourth win in seven attempts, but is not taking anything for granted in a field that contains the likes of Tamika Williams, Krista Dyer and Ashley Berry, who will make the step up from track where she is a top middle distance runner.

“She [Berry] is definitely one to look out for, I don’t know how she will fare in the longer distances but we ran a track meet against each other last year, a 3,000 metres, and she definitely schooled me in that,” Estwanik said.

“She was a lot stronger over the shorter distance, but even if this year isn’t her year I bet it could be a good event for her as she gets older. She’ll get better at the longer distances if she keeps it up. She’s definitely one to look out for in the future.”

Berry will be joined in her first Derby race by her younger sister Megan, who also started in track, and Estwanik says the competition is good for the women.

Estwanik was beaten by Hoey two years ago before reclaiming her title in impressive fashion last year. “Rose-Anna and I are good friends, she’s been working hard, has had an injury but is a fierce competitor and is one to look out for,” she said.

“Deon [Breary] has had a great training season, had a couple of little injuries but has been very consistent. Then also there’s Krista Dyer who has had some good performances.”

Estwanik always looks forward to the excitement generated by the crowds, particularly in spots like Crow Lane roundabout. She is hoping for the same on the new course as the runners tackle the hills on the way into Hamilton via Middle Road.

“I’m really looking forward to it, I’m excited for something different, to see what the crowds are going to be like coming from the other end,” she said. “I think a lot of people were reluctant for the change but now that it has happened everybody is excited about it.

“I did part of it, from Flatts to Front Street, and didn’t run the Bailey’s Bay part, but some friends who I train with did that section and they said Bailey’s Bay to the top of Crawl Hill is going to be a challenging hill.

“I expected from Flatts to the top of Flatts Hill to be the worst part, but when I was running it I found from Devonshire Church up to ZBM to be a long climb. It will be interesting to see how people fare on that hill so late on the course.”

Estwanik is hoping to get close to her time last year of 1hr 21min 24sec, knowing that whoever wins will hold a new course record for others to chase.

“What I want to do is go out with the intention of getting close to a similar time to last year, the 1:21 to 1:22 area,” she said.

“What I’m hoping to do is go out at a good clip without going overboard. As I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten stronger towards the end of the race and I’m hoping that will be true for Monday.”

Entry numbers continue to swell ahead of this weekend’s late deadline period with 1,150 signed up by late yesterday, 808 individuals and 342 who will be running the relay. A total of 1,287 runners competed last year.