Lamont Marshall the man: on life, alcohol abuse, the army
Lamont Marshall, recently dethroned Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby champion, sits down with freelance journalist PATRICK BEAN in a wide-ranging interview that covers his ups and downs, successes and failures, in and away from athletics, warts and all. Today, Lamont Marshall the man
“Ya running and ya running,
But you can’t run away from yourself!”
— Bob Marley and the Wailers
The lyrics contained in the prose voiced by late reggae legend Bob Marley speak to the perceived inescapability from wrongs committed, whereby one’s refusal to acknowledge personal faults and failures as reality more often precipitates further commission of the same.
Drink and drug-recovery programmes present a similar message within an analogy comparing the largest “river” flowing through the continent of Africa (the Nile) to a river that flows richly through many a human psyche (“denial”).
Three-times Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby champion Lamont Marshall has come face-to-face with such truth, that which he cannot overcome with his legs or any amount of physical training. However, rather than attempt to run with a view to escaping from the truth of his struggle, he has instead chosen to acknowledge his human frailty in the midst of personal tribulation and to make a plea for assistance in conquering a hill steeper than any he has traversed on the roads and navigating a path more wearisome than any distance covered on the track.
It was mere days before Marshall taking to the start line for the latest edition of the Derby and ending with a customary position on the podium that he was called to appear at a dais of a vastly different sort — that of a courtroom to answer to a range of criminal offences, including drink-driving, driving while disqualified and refusing to take a breath test, all to which he pleaded guilty, while openly saying to magistrate Maxine Anderson: “I want to get the help I need, especially now that I’m a husband and a father. I need to lead a better example.”
At the time, the judge sent the case DUI Court, releasing Marshall on $1,500 bail, while ordering the athlete to undergo a social inquiry report and drug assessment, and also banning him from the roads until further notice.
The affable, multitalented and decorated runner speaks candidly of his problems with alcohol abuse, which have encompassed three highly concerning incidents that landed him before the courts, perhaps the most disturbing occurring in 2013 when he was involved in a traffic collision that injured two other road users and resulted in a six-month jail sentence.
Asked how he is faring with regard to his admitted drinking problem, far from downcast, Marshall was upbeat as to possessing the ability to overcome past foibles and move forward in a positive vein despite such shortcomings.
One could not help but be drawn by the enthusiasm and engaging manner of the man who stands as the national record-holder in the 5,000 metres (indoors), 15K, 3,000 metres steeplechase and Butterfield & Vallis 5K, to go along with his half-marathon exploits.
“I take it day by day,” Marshall said. “We all make mistakes is the open-and-shut cliché, but all those things you just mentioned make me who I am … I can’t take anything back.
“So in terms of being the role model, this and that, you’re absolutely right, but I don’t feel as if I can’t help future generations because of my past; rather I believe I possibly can because I’ve endured those hardships.
“Like I said, that’s who I am. I’ve always admitted to it openly and I just take it day by day, step by step. It’s nothing for me to say, ‘OK, well I’ve done or I’ve taken this step and that’, because I can’t expect anyone to give me a pat on the back because I’m sober and not getting in trouble. I’m not supposed to be. I don’t make it a big issue to say, ‘I’m this and that’, I just take it day by day.
“There’s a dispute with a lot of parents as to whether children [should or] shouldn’t get rewarded for good behaviour or for getting good report cards because your job as a child is to learn. My job as a parent is to provide, protect, teach, so like I said, I don’t feel as if me being sober and out of trouble deserves a big pat on the back.”
While the Covid pandemic and associated restrictions have hindered unfettered participation in a normal substance-abuse recovery programme, Marshall intimated that he was adhering to court mandates, not as a matter of specifically redeeming himself in the eyes of the public but as a mode of growth and maturation as a father, husband and a member of society in general. And although he noted his treatment is in the infancy stage, it is known to be customary of the DUI and drug courts to demand attendance, at the very least, at alcohol and/or drug prevention meetings along with individual, group outpatient or in-house therapy.
Marshall explained: “I’m just talking with them. I’m within the process, it’s not been halted but it has been slowed down due to Covid, so there’s been a lot of virtual things and I’m going through it day by day, step by step.
“I don’t know the exact process, I’m just going through it, following instruction, taking it day by day. I’ve spoken with a few people in reference to it, but that’s more or less the outer scheme of what it is, the grand scheme of which I’m not entirely sure.”
“When it comes to thinking of the future, the past, I just take it one day at a time. My daily routine is not to really dwell on anything negative or think of redemption; it is what it is and part of who I am.”
Queried as to whether he considered himself an alcoholic, Marshall firmly rejected the notion of attaching such a label to himself or anyone else, regardless of any demonstrated or perceived penchant towards overindulgence.
“I don’t know what that is,” was his response. “People, when they ask, the best way I can describe it is that I suffer from issues which stem from alcohol. But what is an alcoholic?
“I was told that you can have 100 alcoholics in a room that drink heavily daily and only have three or four that are real alcoholics. So I wouldn’t know, quite honestly, when it comes to categorising people and saying, ‘What do you identify with?’.
“I’ve never given much thought to it as a positive or negative, and what difference would it make? Whether one is or isn’t, you still have to deal with it.
“I can say that whatever I’ve been through, whether it be running, drinking, work experiences, anything I’ve ever been through in life, I can’t take it back, because how would I think going forward if I hadn’t been through those experiences? How would I deal with it going forward?”
The 36-year-old intimated that he mainly drank beer and explained that he simply fell into what is a common aspect of Bermudian culture, which for many means to partake in the consumption of alcoholic beverages once one reaches the stage of life where fledgeling adults find urge to go out and socialise over a few libations.
“For me, it’s been beer,” he said. “But that’s what’s been the good and bad thing about my situation. I’ve always told myself, ‘Well, it’s just beer’, but it’s all alcohol, no matter what form it’s in. I never had a choice rum or anything like that; it’s always been just beer.
“It’s Bermuda’s culture, that’s what we do. You start drinking as soon as you can go out, so I’ve been drinking for a while. There’s no specific date I can point to that I started or say which was the first time I got drunk.”
Marshall acknowledged that his problems with alcohol have likely damaged his reputation in the minds of some, while also causing degrees of collateral damage within his family and inner circle of relatives and friends, even as he might not be fully cognisant of the amount of damage contained within those with a true caring and love for him.
“You would imagine so, but you don’t feel it from that side,” he said. “I don’t know, you could feel it from somebody on the street whom I’ve adversely affected, but I won’t necessarily know how much.
“It might be somebody looking at me saying, ‘Look, I admire this guy, he runs, he trains, but I read this about him’. I can’t feel what they feel when they read that about me. But, like I said, I’m human and I’ve made mistakes and I’m trying to just go day by day.
“[My family] they’re good. Where I’m at now, like with Covid, this all struck kind of weird, so I’ve had to deal with everything like with my training, whereby what you thought was normal is now something else.
“I look at what’s going on now, we can’t even congregate in areas and I think what the future holds we’ll have to see how it goes, but I can’t even begin to describe it. So, in terms of support, yes it’s there, that family base, but I can’t speak for the future.”
Of no question is the support of his father, Larry Marshall Sr., who has raised, trained and consistently championed his son in matters of the household, the field of athletics, to the formation of Bermudians Against the Draft and its rejection of the system of conscription to the Royal Bermuda Regiment and the eventual quashing of the system of mandatory military service.
Marshall continued: “He’s always been my No 1 supporter in terms of everything. So for us we can have that open dialogue to share and that’s some of the things that for me were therapeutic.
“Now, you might feel that it hasn’t worked, but it has. It’s been and is a work in progress. I obviously won’t share intimate details he and I have discussed as father and son, and his experiences and such, but it’s exactly what you need, that father-son relationship to go forward with any problems you have.”
However, even as Marshall maintained the past to be just that, the situation of his first publicly reported mishap that caused physical damage to others seemed to continue to burden him above all others — if only in that it emphasised the magnitude of damage he could potentially inflict if he continued to drink irresponsibly. Or at all.
“That was definitely one of the worst situations for me to be involved in and the worst part about it was that I could only apologise in court under counsel’s instruction,” he said. “I was told that I could not apologise directly because it might look like this, that and the third if it was to go to civil court.
“So I had to water down the apology. I wanted to go to them to apologise, but I was told that I could not approach the victims under the circumstances.
“That was a bad situation and I did feel apologetic and, to the point, I did hurt people but it was a ticklish situation where I couldn’t approach them and I certainly appreciate the magnitude of the matter and the damage I caused.”
Thus humbled without being humiliated Marshall emphasised his commitment to march on in life to the best of his ability, warts and all, undeterred by past circumstances, while eager to experience all that life has in store … good, bad or indifferent, while encouraging others to likewise accept and deal with life as it presents in their own peculiar way.
“You have to remember that there’s life on the outside and you have to deal with matters daily and make your own personal decisions. You might not be able to give the best answers or most accurate answers now, and tomorrow I might just do it without knowing. So maybe I might not be able to put it specifically into words now; there’s plenty of time for that.”
“I try not to give advice; I just give encouragement. I keep it simple, that’s for me. It’s not for me to sit somebody down and tell them what to do or not to do. My simple message is, ‘All the best to you’.
“To anybody who may be in a position like me, ‘All the best’. However they deal with it, ‘All the best’.”