Course record-holder Ashley Couper plays down chances in Derby comeback
Ashley Couper has lowered expectations on her comeback to the Bermuda Day Half-Marathon Derby scene from a lengthy hiatus.
The six-times winner, who also holds both course records, is poised to make her first appearance in the 13.1-mile road race since her last triumph in 2016.
“I was looking back and could not believe that the last time I did May 24 was 2016,” Couper said.
“Just to be not injured and able to compete is a great thing and then for all of us to be able to have a nice race after two seasons of pretty much nothing because of the pandemic is really nice for everybody to be able to get out there.
“I think we’re really lucky that we’re able to do it.”
Couper set the course record starting from Somerset of 1hr 21min 24sec in 2014.
She then established the course record starting from St George’s of 1:22:43 the next year before completing a hat-trick of titles in 2016 to join an exclusive group of runners to have achieved three or more consecutive wins that includes Debbie Butterfield, Sandra Mewett and Anna Eatherley
Couper, 43, said her preparations in the lead up to the race have “gone pretty good’.
“I’m training hard, but things are not coming as easily as they used to,” she added.
“I’m definitely not as fast as I used to be, but I enjoy being out there and enjoy training with a few people.
“Just being able to complete two to three hard workouts a week and not feel broken and just actually be able to do it is what’s making me happy right now.
“I’m not expecting anything amazing. But I’m happy to get out there and be able to compete among our best runners and people that are just happy to be out there competing.”
The race will be held on May 28 and will start from St George’s at 8.30am and finish at Bernard Park.
“I’ve actually done coming from St George’s once, I guess that must have been 2015,” Couper said.
“At the beginning of the race I was like, ‘this is great, I love this’ and then you hit Flatts and it’s just horrendous from there to Front Street and by then you’re just dead no matter what.
“You just got to get through from Flatts to Front Street and then just hang on.”
She added: “Going through Crow Lane is always so meaningful because it is kind of like you’re almost to the home stretch and there’s always so many people there.
“But there won’t be that many people there this year so I just hope that people can come out in a safe way and be able to cheer the runners on.
“I know that we need to be safe and follow guidelines and everything but one of the biggest parts that make May 24 so meaningful is having people out there and calling your name and just being so supportive.”
The women’s field also boasts defending champion Rose-Anna Hoey, who is gunning for a second straight title and third overall, as well as the likes of Christine Dailey, Gayle Lindsay, Martina Olcheski-Bell who are also expected to be in contention for honours.
Couper considers Hoey as the firm favourite to retain her crown.
“I think it’s Rose-Anna’s race to win for sure,” she said. “She is so strong and has been training hard uninterrupted going on, I guess, almost two years.“She is so, so strong right now, so I would be very, very surprised if she was not the winner.”The road running spectacle was cancelled for only the second time in its 112-year history last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The other time it was cancelled was in 1915 because of the First World War.
Lamont Marshall, the three-times winner, is the defending men’s champion.
• UPDATE: this story has been amended to remove reference to Ashley Couper holding the women’s event record as well as the course record. The event record is 1:19:55, set by Sandra Mewett in 1989