Dennis Mbelenzi Looking To Retain Marathon Title

January 9, 2024 | 0 Comments

[Written by Stephen Wright]

Dennis Mbelenzi will look to continue his special running relationship with the island as he bids to retain his PwC Bermuda Marathon crown on Sunday [January 14].

The Kenyan, who lived on the island from 2007 to 2019, debuted in the race last year, completing the 26.2-mile race in 2hr 29min 55sec.

Although he would have liked to clock more mileage in preparation for his title defence, Mbelenzi believes he can break the new course record [2:28:52] set by American Bryan Morseman in 2020.

“I’ve not put in the mileage I like to do when preparing for a full marathon,” Mbelenzi told Bernews.

“I’ve been training for this race since the start of November. Ideally, it would have been a little longer, but it should be long enough for me to have a decent race.

“I still think I have the quality to break the course record. I believe it’s within reach. I won’t be too surprised if I get it, but I won’t be too disappointed if I don’t.”

The 42-year-old, who once weighed 220lbs, discovered a passion for running on the island, competing in his first competitive race in the Ovarian Cancer Zurich 5K at Clearwater in 2016.

Several wins followed, including the David Saul Memorial Fidelity 5K Road Race, the AXA Man of the Run 5K, the Friends of Hospice/Hannover Re Half-Marathon, the Bacardi 8K Road Race, and the Swan’s Running Club Legends race series.

“When it comes to running, Bermuda is my home,” Mbelenzi said. “That’s where I started running.

“The people who first saw me running when I weighed 100 kilograms were Bermudians. It’s a special place for me.

“The two most important races on my calendar are the Bermuda Half Marathon Derby and Race Weekend.”

For the first time, Mbelenzi said he intends to compete in the Chubb Full Bermuda Triangle Challenge [Butterfield Mile, BF&M 10K, and PwC Bermuda Marathon].

“I’m leaning towards the Full Challenge because of the excitement that comes with the mile and the competitiveness of the 10k,” said Mbelenzi, who now lives in Nova Scotia, Canada.

“I’m not a mile runner; I’m only doing it because it’s part of the full challenge. I certainly won’t be competitive.”

Mbelenzi was at the centre of controversy when he was the first runner home in the Bermuda Half Marathon Derby last year but was not eligible to be classed as the winner as he is a non-resident.

Only Bermudians or residents on the island six months before race day are eligible for prizes or placement.

He intends to return for the May 24 race this year and does not believe there have to be significant changes to the race rules.

“It’s a non-existent controversy because the rules are clear: to win prizes, you must be a Bermudian or a resident in Bermuda for six months before the race, which is perfectly fine,” said Mbelenzi, who raced the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in October.

“People weren’t used to seeing a non-resident cross the line first; that was the issue. The organisers don’t need my input, but I hope they continue having one start time for everybody, not a different one for non-residents.

“Spectators want to see competition up front. Everybody runs faster when challenged.

“There’s nothing to fear from competition. Nine times out of ten, a Bermudian or resident will finish first anyway.”

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