Tyler Butterfield battled through the pain barrier to set a new national record in the marathon after coming twelfth in the hot and humid conditions yesterday.
In only the third marathon of his career, Butterfield finished in a time of 2hr 26min 29sec to edge past Raymond Swan’s 36-year-old Bermudian record of 2:26:37.
Butterfield was the only runner in the 24-man field to post a personal best at a sun-drenched Southport Broadwater Parklands.
“That hurt every step,” Butterfield said. “We had the wind on the way home. You could feel it … when you’re starting to get tired and your legs are feeling heavy and you’re getting cramp. That’s racing for you. I’ve never had to hurt so much.”
Seven competitors failed to finish, including Scotland’s Callum Hawkins who collapsed two kilometres from the finish line, missing out on a gold medal.
Hawkins had held a 2:03 lead over Australia’s Michael Shelley at the 40km checkpoint of the 42.195km race before he started zig-zagging across the road, running into a spectator and hitting his head on a roadside barrier as he tried to keep himself up.
Michael Shelley, the home-town favourite, did not stop as he passed Hawkins to retain the gold he won in Glasgow in 2014. Shelley’s time of 2:16:46 was more than five and half minutes off his PB.
Butterfield said he was sorry to learn of Hawkins’s misfortune but pleased for Shelley who he competed against while studying in Southport in his late teens.
“[Shelley] lives just down the road,” Butterfield said. “When I lived here I would see him out training and you could see how much he did. You just have the upmost respect for someone who trains that hard.
“He races against guys who are super quick and yet at the big games he just seems to knock them off. I’m sure that’s going to be the highlight of his career.”
Butterfield said the conditions were the most brutal he has experienced as an athlete, although he believes that actually played to his advantage.
He found himself in last position at the start of the race but gradually clawed his way up the field as his competitors toiled in the heat.
“To be last at the beginning, I had to have confidence in myself that I could still run a decent time and that the heat would catch up with the other people,” said Butterfield, who is familiar with scorching conditions from his years competing as a triathlete in the Hawaii Ironman World Championship.
“I never expected it to be so hot at this time of the year,” he said. “It didn’t give me a fast time but it played into my hands position-wise. A lot of guys were blowing up.
“I was surprised I didn’t go a little faster. But when you see the winner’s PB is five minutes quicker than what he did today that puts it into perspective.”
Although Butterfield hoped for a better time he said he was proud to be the new national record holder. His previous best was the 2:27:07 he set in the Bermuda Marathon in January. Chris Estwanik holds the fastest time set by an island resident after finishing the 2013 Boston Marathon in 2:19:55.
“The last couple of miles it felt like the wheels were falling off,” said Butterfield, who was competing in his third event on the Gold Coast. “But I said to myself ‘you’re not going to do another one of these anytime soon, so go as hard as you can until the finish’.
“I’m glad I did because it was only a handful of seconds for the Bermudian-born record. I needed that; it’s a nice little token. It could be another two or three years before I do another one of these. I was thinking ‘these things are a little silly’.”
As those around him started slowing down in the brutal conditions, Butterfield was able to pick up the pace.
“When you’re hurting and you look at your watch and the pace is slowing down but you know you’re going faster than the people around you, it’s motivating,” he said.
“The crowd was amazing, between the Aussie support, the people who knew me when I lived here, calling my name, and the Bermuda support. To have done the Bermuda Marathon and the Gold Coast marathon at the Commonwealth Games so close together … the only other marathons I’d like to do are Berlin or Boston.”