Donawa finally ‘bride of brides’
Jay Donawa saved the best for last, storming to a maiden triumph after so many near misses on his Appleby Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby swansong.
It may have been a long time coming, but the 44-year-old's breakthrough was well worth the wait as he got his tactics spot on to take full advantage of a watered-down field and exorcise his demons once and for all after finishing second on eight occasions.
“You will never, ever call me a bridesmaid again,” a triumphant Donawa declared at the finish line. “I'm the bride of brides so I will take my eight seconds and my victory today. Today is my day and I'm very thankful for the opportunity.
“I'm so thankful for all the support from St George's all the way up. Everybody was like, ‘Jay, this is your year', and I have heard that from many people but today I believed it.
“To be honest, I don't even remember the last mile and a half. I was just numb.”
An emotional Donawa, who hit the tape in 1hr 20min 8sec, broke down in tears after his win and after gathering himself delivered a powerful message to the throngs of spectators on hand at Bernard Park.
“I just want to tell everybody in Bermuda that regardless of whatever your life situation is don't ever give up,” he said.
“My message from today is not about the running, the message from today is don't ever, ever give up.
“Today I'm in the winner's circle. I said two years ago this would be my last one but today I'm going out on top. This is the last time that you will see me [running] 24th of May.”
Hollywood could not have written a better script for Donawa's triumph as he ran a smart race from start to finish.
He was among lead group before breaking away going uphill towards the fourth mile and extending his lead the rest of the way.
Donawa averaged 6:07 minute-mile splits and was always in control of his own destiny after making the decisive break as the chasing pack faded away in the distance.
“I didn't really make a move,” Donawa said. “All I did was sustain and figured if I could run a 5:58 pace and gain on the runners then all I needed to do in the middle miles was just maintain the pace.
“I was just running 5:58 [splits] and keeping my legs turning over. Based on the crowd and the noise, I knew that I was pulling away from the guys.
“One thing about me, if I establish a nice rhythm then I can just stay there and nobody was really gaining.
“I think if there was someone else able to maintain that then I would have been in for a real battle.”
Among those offering their congratulations to Donawa at the finish line was Kavin Smith, the nine-times winner.
“I'm so happy for Jay,” Smith said. “He deserves it and I'm excited for him.
“He earned this through perseverance. He hung in there and finally the sun is shining on him.”
Donawa was among a trio of masters runners that swept the podium. Evan Naude, 40, finished second in 1:21:50 to improve on last year's third place.
“I'm happy with my second place and couldn't be happier for Jay,” Naude said. “I was rooting for him to win today and I'm very happy. He really deserved it.”
Chris Harris, 47, finished third in 1:23:16.