It’s all change for Bermuda’s festival of running in January, with a new marathon course, organising team and name.
The three-day event will mark its 45th anniversary with a major boost aimed at increasing participation by locals, overseas entrants and elite athletes.
The international event started in 1975 and has previously been known as the Bermuda International Race Weekend, and most recently the Bermuda Marathon Weekend.
It is now the Bermuda Triangle Challenge, taking its name from the popular multi-distance race series introduced in 2008, which has become the most popular element of the weekend.
The marathon course, previously a double-loop route, will be point-to-point, starting in Dockyard and following the Railway Trail through the West End, before switching to South Road at Barnes Corner.
Marathoners are expected to start at least 1½ hours before the half-marathon race, which begins in Hamilton. Those in the longer race will converge with the half-marathoners near Hamilton and run alongside them for the final 12 miles.
“Our ultimate goal with the Bermuda Triangle Challenge is to move it from being a good event to a world-class event that every runner wants to have on their competition calendar,” said Freddie Evans, event chairman.
“With the benefit of our new management team, we are repositioning and building on the past successes of Anthony Raynor’s organisational team.
“This is a long-term vision which our new affiliation with the Bermuda Tourism Authority will allow us to build this event.”
The BTA has designated the 2020 event as one of its signature events. Olympian Hazel Clark, sports marketing director at the BTA, said: “The Bermuda Triangle Challenge is an opportunity for Bermuda to showcase its rich running history, energetic local fans, beautiful landscape and ability to deliver world class sporting events.
“In 2020 the focus will be on further developing local involvement, enhancing participant experience and the development of our elite section ensuring the event continues to grow and thrive”.
In the past 45 years, the event has attracted some of the biggest names in running, including former Olympic and world champions, such as Norwegian legend Grete Waitz, an eight-times women’s winner of the 10K, Olympic marathon champions Joan Benoit Samuelson and Frank Shorter, and former world marathon champion Douglas Wakiihuri. Other big name competitors have included Steve Cram, Geoff Smith, Steve Jones, Ron Hill, and Kathrine Switzer.
Organisers want the event to “fulfil its potential and become a major highlight of the international road racing calendar”.
The weekend features Friday night one-mile races on Front Street, a 10K the following day, and a half-marathon and marathon on the final day. Competitors opting for the Triangle Challenge run on all three days, and choose either the half-marathon or marathon as their finale.
There is likely to be a boost in overseas entrants with the return of Boston-based Marathon Tours & Travel as exclusive travel partner for the event. Thom Gilligan, founder of the company, has had an association with the races since 1979, and came up with the idea of the Bermuda Triangle Challenge race series, which revitalised the event after it suffered years of declining participant numbers.
Marathon Tours has been absent from the event for a number of years, but Gilligan said he is delighted to be back.
He called it a genius idea to link up the new marathon route with the half-marathon mid-race.
“The marathoners will enjoy running along the south shore,” he said, adding that there is a trend for competitors to seek out multi-day events and to be less interested in finishing times and more motivated to collect event T-shirts and medals. He said the weekend’s race distances give Bermuda something unique at a time of year when there are few competing multi-day running events.
Meanwhile, Evans said: “We have substantially reorganised the leadership structure by enlisting the support of individuals with expertise in specific areas such as marketing, technology, accommodation, transportation, road safety, refreshments, runner exposition and registration”.
Joining Evans on the executive team is Mila Bean, Mark Harris, Marty Merritt, Phil Martin, with Anthony Raynor as liaison officer. Raynor was the event’s guiding light for more than a decade.
Pam Shailer and Mike Charles, who have a long association with the event, will continue to provide support. New team members include Anna Laura Hocking, Mia Black, Ali Hochberg, Janet Edgett, Damico Watson, Sharon Craig and Chris Jones.