Derby organisers welcome back runners by pre-pandemic numbers
Entries for the 112th Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby tomorrow have exceeded expectations. By yesterday 657 individual runners had signed up to participate, as well as 236 four-man and 46 two-man relay teams for a total of 937 participants before late entries swelled the overall number to almost 1,000.
This year marks the first time since 2019 that the race will return to pre-Covid numbers, after the 2020 event was cancelled because of the pandemic. Last year there were still some restrictions on numbers, with 430 individuals competing.
“We were not even expecting 400, I don’t know where all the people came from but it’s exciting,” said Gina Tucker, president of the Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby committee.
“It looks like everybody wants to do the Derby this year. It does help with your mental wellness as well as physical.”
Chris Estwanik, the defending men’s champion, will be the favourite as he looks to make it eight wins in the race. Last year Estwanik led home the field from St George’s to Hamilton, clocking a winning time of 1hr 10min 28sec, to finish 2½ minutes ahead of defending champion Lamont Marshall in 1:13:01.
Sammy Degraff (1:16:10) was third last year while Séamus Fearon and Sean Trott completed the top five with times of 1:16:42 and 1:17:23 respectively.
Trott is happy with his build-up to the race after winning the recent Legends Series.
“Things have gone well this year, last year I had surgery that I had to rush back from, so this year there is nothing like that,” said Trott, referring to a hernia operation four months before the race.
“I had some continuation from last year and I’m happy with the sessions and all that I’ve done. I’ve added some new things to my training and speedwork and I have benefited with the race results that I’ve had.”
Trott, who has run in 11 Bermuda Day races, is still searching for his first victory after recording seven top-ten finishes since making his debut as a 16-year-old in 2006. He has placed second three times, in 2012 behind winner Estwanik and in 2018 and 2019 when Lamont Marshall won back-to-back titles.
“I’ve had three seconds now and definitely would like to do better than that one day, if not this year,” said Trott, appreciating how tough it is to get that first victory.
“I’m looking to run a smart race and not go out and blow my whole race up by doing something too crazy. If I can go with the other guys then I’ll go with them, not letting the race getting away from me, either.
“Definitely I want to do better than that fifth place, that’s not where I am right now. I did some big sessions since the Legends Series finished, and have tapered off since then.”
The race will have an exemption entry with former resident Dennis Mbelenzi, who placed seventh in the 2019 race before leaving the island later that year, being allowed to compete. However, Tucker confirmed that he will not be eligible for the prize money, which will see $3,000 going to the winner of the male and female races.
Second place in the two categories will receive $1,200 and third place $600 as prize money is handed out to the top three finishers in most categories.
A new women’s winner will be crowned with Rose-Anna Hoey still recovering from shoulder and hand injuries suffered in a hit-and-run while cycling in December.
This year’s race will be a tribute to veteran journalist and former Olympian Mike Sharpe, who regularly produced live radio commentary of the race. Sharpe died in December at the age of 65.
The Heritage Day Junior Race, a two-mile race from Front Street to Bernard Park, will return tomorrow after a two-year absence, with a new, 16 to 17 age group, which has been expanded to keep some of the older runners eligible after missing the race in 2020 and 2021.
West End Athletic Club organises the race, which has Lister Insurance as a long-term sponsor. There will be about 60 runners competing in four age groups — 8-10, 11-12, 13-15 and 16-17 — for the race, which will start as soon as the cyclists pass along Front Street.
“It is one of the premier events of the Bermuda Day holiday, junior runners will race over the last two miles of the Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby, starting outside the Supermart on Front Street and finishing at Bernard Park,” race official Anthony Raynor explained.
“Fans lining the racecourse in Hamilton can expect the Heritage Day Junior Classic Road Race to start just after the cyclists participating in the Sinclair Packwood Memorial Race go past the Supermart.”
The runners will head west on Front Street, turn on to Queen Street, right on Church Street and go all the way to King Street, then turn left and left again on to Victoria Street before turning right on to Cedar Avenue and continue to Dutton Avenue at Bernard Park.