By RENALDO DORSETT
The Gilette couple took centre stage at the Sunshine Insurance Race weekend for the second consecutive year and emerged as the overall winners of Marathon Bahamas 2015.
Justin and Melissa Gilette crossed the finish line at Junkanoo Beach yesterday morning as the top overall male and female respectively in the 26.2 mile race.
It was the 80th marathon victory for the 32-year-old Gilette in his career who said he had some extra motivation this year from a friendly wager with a local restaurant owner and the support from the Bahamian public.
“I just kinda got lucky today. I didn’t feel as near as good as I did last year, but I found a way to pull through. That Conch and Kalik restaurant said that if I won again, my family eats there free and that was extra motivation,” he said. “It’s a real nice route, I enjoyed it again. A lot of people knew my name out there and cheered for me. When I felt bad they helped me along and I couldn’t stop and walk when I heard people cheering my name so I enjoyed the loud crowd.
The Goshen, Indianapolis native clocked in at 2:44:17s, after he set a mark of 2:36:57s in last year’s race.
He endorsed the race for its unique feel and gave an early indication that he would be back for title number three in 2016.
“This marathon was my 80th win, and I’d really like to win my 100th pretty soon. It was a very good race. It was basically a free tour of the island. You sign up for a marathon and you get a tour of the island, it was a very, very pretty race. This marathon stands out because at the finish line was like a party going on,” Gilette said.
“This marathon will take off. Once they get a little bit more advertising in the USA and people figure out how to get here the cheapest. I could see this being double the numbers in a couple years. The rewards are really unique with the conch shell and the way the medals look, there are people that really like to win unique things.”
Mrs Gilette, 32, was the top overall female finisher in 3:11:47s, just off her pace of 3:04:01s in 2014.
She has won 19 marathons and it was the 11th time in their career that the couple has won the same marathon.
“It’s exciting, it motivates us to know that the other is out there working hard and training,” Mrs Gilette said. “Since we have two kids we can’t run together very often but it’s a motivator to get out the door when you know the other one just ran 10 miles.”
A Bahamian finisher was in the winner’s circle at this year’s event when Keithrell Hanna captured the men’s overall title in the half marathon in 1:17:28s.
Hanna, 41, was the top overall finisher among residents in last year’s full marathon, which he finished in 2:49.25s.
Kathy Provencher, 44, of Waterbury, Vermont, was the top overall female finisher in 1:35:54s.
Nationally renowned distance runner, Crystal Strachan, who trains in Kenya and has aspirations for the 2016 Olympics, was the top finisher in the female 25-29 age group. She ran 1:37.38s, just a day after she competed in the Susan G Komen 5k Race for the Cure.
“It was good, it was a really relaxed pace. Me trying to do beast mode running a 5k the day before, my legs were so sore but there was just no way I was going to stop,” she said. “I did do better at the last half-marathon I ran in November but I do think I would have run better if I wasn’t so ahead of myself by running the day before.”
For two months, Strachan trained in a small Kenyan town that has produced some of the fastest human beings on the planet.
“I train in Iten, Kenya, also known as the Home of Champions, which is a high altitude camp designed for distance runners who want to train in a serious environment, along with some of the best runners in the world,” she said. “Iten is where most of their marathon runners were born and trained.”
The local “IAAF World Relays 2015” relay team, featuring well known distance running talents Mackey Williams and Sidney Collie, were the first to cross the finish line in 2:42:44s. They were followed by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force in 3:17:10ss and the Incredibles in 3:28:49s.
Among female teams, ReFit finished first in 1:07:06s, followed by the Grand Bahama Port Authority Elite No.2 in 4:22:52s.
Among co-ed teams, the T-Bird Flyers finished first in 3:29:41s.
Seventeen student relay teams also competed in the half-marathon.
The Queens College Comets finished in first place in 3:12:27s, followed by the CV Bethel Stingrays in 3:16:12s and the CI Gibson Rattlers in 3:20:53s.
The RM Bailey Pacers were fourth in 3:21.24s and the St Augustine’s College Big Red Machine rounded out the top five in 3:22:22s.
Over 1,300 international participants have registered for Marathon Bahamas, and according to Tribune Business, its organisers projected that the 2015 event will generate just under $2million in visitor spend.
Recent runner figures, which “continue to increase”, show 1,443 persons have registered for the marathon and 2,100 for the Susan G Komen 5 km ‘Race For the Cure’.
Franklyn Wilson, the Sunshine Holdings and Arawak Homes chairman, said the Sunshine Insurance weekend serves a number of purposes in economic and community building.
“I want all persons hearing this to understand there’s a strategy behind what we’re doing. The running media is beginning to pick up a feel of ‘come for the race and stay for the party.’ This experience is more than a race. We believe if people come to the Bahamas based beyond any single activity then we are on the right track,” he said. “The big point is that we have to continue to produce events at a high level. We want every year for someone to say ‘this is the best one yet.’ This marathon is about building community, health and a benefit to sports tourism.”
Saturday morning featured the The Susan G Komen Bahamas Race for the Cure 5K. Thousands of runners and walkers took to the route which began at Montagu Beach and finished at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island. Sunshine Insurance (Agents & Brokers) Ltd, with MARSH, its international affiliate, in its role as the lead sponsor and organiser for Marathon Bahamas, has fostered a strategic partnership between Marathon Bahamas and Susan G Komen for the Cure, the global leader of the breast cancer movement and the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists - a partnership that could significantly impact the health of Bahamians, especially in the areas of breast cancer and other women’s health issues.
It is an annual event, not only to raise money for the beneficiaries but also to bring attention to the dreaded disease that affect so many of our Bahamian women.
One hundred per cent of the money raised by the Race for the Cure will remain in The Bahamas to fund breast cancer research/awareness and women’s health programmes.