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New marathon route creates buzz of excitement

For the first time the PwC Bermuda Marathon will start at the historic Royal Naval Dockyard.That is a significant change from past years when the marathon was held over two laps in the centre of the island, and marathoners ran with half-marathoners on the same 13.1-mile loop, but did it twice.Now the marathon is a point-to-point event. It starts in the west and takes in the oceanside scenery of south shore before converging with athletes in the PwC Half-Marathon outside Hamilton for the final 12 miles.On the new course the marathoners will loop around Dockyard before running on the quiet Bermuda Railway Trail for about four miles through Somerset and Southampton, including coming off the trail to cross Somerset Bridge, the world’s smallest drawbridge.At Barnes Corner they head along South Road, passing the beaches of Horseshoe Bay, Jobson’s Cove and Warwick Long Bay. Around the 14-mile point the marathon and half-marathon converge and do the traditional loop to Harrington Sound and back along North Shore Road, as far as Admiralty Park, before turning towards Hamilton and finishing at Barr’s Bay Park.Mark Harris, one of the organisers, said: “Most of us have done the race weekend marathon and have always felt it was something that could be done better.“I’ve done the two loops, and apart from one or two people, most do not like doing two loops on a long-distance course.“You’d do the first loop and there would be spectators and it would be really good, and then you’d go past the finish line and have to do it all again, and it was almost as if there was no one else around.“The other thing is, Bermuda is a beautiful island, so why are we not utilising what Bermuda has to show.”He said the idea of a new route, using the Railway Trail and south shore, was suggested to the Bermuda National Athletic Association. They saw the potential benefits, particularly as the number of marathon entrants has started to dwindle in recent years.“You never know with the weather, but the south shore route gives beautiful views of the coastline. It’s a stunning route,” Harris said.“It’s not an easy route. I’ve done it, a few people have. Most marathons are generally flat, this will be a challenge. On south shore it is up and down, up and down.”However, the prospect of a new route, even with hills, has created excitement.“There’s quite a long-distance running community on the island, and the buzz around them [about this] is excellent. People have said ‘I’ve never done a marathon here before because it is two loops, I’m definitely doing this’,” he said.Last year, about 130 people ran the marathon. By last month more than 160 had signed up for Sunday’s race.“There are challenges. It’s a small island and we are using a larger area. We have been working with the police and the Department of Works and getting them engaged in what we are trying to do. The support they have given has been tremendous, they get it, they understand why we are doing it. From a logistics side they actually think it is better rather than having two loops and people standing around for a longer time.”Harris added: “This is the first year with a new route. We hope it will generate enough interest that people have a good time doing it and spread the word. We want to make sure this route is here to stay.”The marathon starts at 7am in Dockyard. There will be a ferry to take runners there from Hamilton at 5.30am, giving them time to drop their bags at the start and warm up.While the lead runners are likely to clock around 2hr 20min to 2:30, Harris believes most marathoners will complete the event in about four hours. That being the case, it is anticipated that when the majority reach Trimmingham Hill, at around 14 miles, they’ll meet the half-marathon runners who start from Hamilton at 9am.“The aim is that for the last 12 miles, with all the crowds that are generally associated with the half-marathon, the marathon runners will get a bit of a gee-up with that support as they do the second half of their run.”The Royal Gazette Bermuda Triangle Challenge’s longest-standing record is Andy Holden’s marathon time of 2:15:20 set in 1980. When asked if that record can be broken, Harris said: “Records are there to be broken. As we’ve seen, particularly in the long distance running, times are coming down.“This route is hilly, and you never know with the weather in January. But can it be broken? I think so.“Whether it is this year, I don’t know. But 2:15, given the condition of elite runners these days, I do think that record can be beaten. It will be an impressive feat because the elevation on some parts of the course is challenging.“But if the conditions are right, and the right athlete comes along, I have no doubt that can be beaten.”