New national record holder in the men’s marathon, O’Neil Williams, is now looking to take it a step further, hoping to make an impact at major meets and in major events.
His next goal is to represent The Bahamas in the men’s marathon at the Commonwealth Games, and have a respectable performance for the country while there. Three Saturdays ago, Williams ran 2:30:35 in the full marathon at the 35th Ameris Bank Jacksonville Marathon in Jacksonville, Florida, erasing Delroy Boothe’s 18-year national record of 2:34:47.
Williams finished second overall to American Michael Iacofano in Jacksonville, giving The Bahamas its highest ever finish in an international marathon. Iacofano, 23, won the overall title in 2:18:39, Williams was second, and American Andy Merrill, 24, finished third in 2:34:57.
Now back home in Nassau, The Bahamas, 35-year-old Williams said that he is focussed on going even further in the event. His run in Jacksonville was just the second time he ever competed in the full marathon.
“In my first marathon, I ended up crashing and burning at about the 18-mile mark. I ended up running a 3:45, because I stopped, walked and drank water just to catch myself,” said Williams. “I had no idea the marathon was so demanding. After that race, I trained for an extra six months and I went into this race in Jacksonville feeling comfortable. I went into the race with a plan, and I stuck to that plan. I started to feel some pain around mile 16, but I just stuck with it. I started to think of all the people back home who supported me. When I got to mile 23, I said to myself that I could finish this.”
Williams completed the 26.2 mile course in just over two and a half hours, but he knows that he will have to go much faster if he intends to be a serious threat at the Commonwealth Games. The 21st Commonwealth Games is set for April 4–15, 2018, on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.
“No Bahamian has ever run world-class times in a marathon,” he said. “Once I run anything under 2:18, then organizers will invite me to races and there will be appearance fees that could help toward my training. At that point, I’m looking to win, not just to run it, but to win. My sights are set extremely high. It’s just a matter of time before I get to the big races and run with the big boys.”
With that stunning time in Jacksonville, Williams has qualified for the Boston Marathon in April and the TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) New York City Marathon in November among others, but for now, he said that his focus remains on the Commonwealth Games and lowering the national record once again.
“The national record was always on my mind, but I said to myself that if I run a 2:45 or 2:47 in Jacksonville, I would feel comfortable because I knew the next time around, I would run a 2:30 and then continually come down,” said Williams. “I had no idea that I was so far ahead of national record time. I really wasn’t focussed on breaking the national record because I thought I needed more time to get comfortable with the distance and more time to get stronger. I’m just happy that I was able to do it.
“I have to thank God first and foremost. Also, I have to thank Island Games which came on board at the last minute. They gave me a huge contribution toward my training and it helped out tremendously. I have to thank Sarah Kennedy and Gregory Micheler from the Think Simple Ltd. Co. Also, Dionisio D’Aguilar has been there for me since day one, and I have to thank my family and friends who have been there for me as well. Glen Bain supported me in going to Jacksonville to run the marathon. He paid for airfare, hotel, race registration and just gave me great support, and I thank him for that. Also, thanks to Wilson Bain, my coach, and everyone who supported me. All of these people really helped me to break the national record. They believed in me from day one, and I will continually do my best to make them proud.”
As far as Marathon Bahamas is concerned, Williams said that he will do just the half marathon at that event, and then continue preparing for the Commonwealth Games. The Sunshine Insurance Race Weekend, featuring the ninth running of Marathon Bahamas, is set for January 13-14, 2018, at the northern tip of New Providence.
“Well I’m still recovering from running the full marathon, so I would do Marathon Bahamas but just the half marathon,” he said. “If they decide to pick me for the Commonwealth Games, I would go and represent The Bahamas well.
I wouldn’t want to come home and do a trials in March, and then be hurting when I go to the Commonwealth Games in April, but if they decide to let me represent the country at the Commonwealth Games, I will be well prepared for when that event comes around and 2:30 wouldn’t be a problem. My focus would be on running 2:10 or below.”
The new Bahamian national record holder in the men’s marathon has been training for the grueling 26.2-mile running event for just seven months. In his first marathon in Stockholm, Sweden, last year, Williams failed to finish. Now, in his first completed marathon, he is the new national record holder. The Bahamian distance runner who is enjoying a second stint training in Kenya, said that the sky is the limit for him. He’s looking to really take off.
“I have seen vast improvement since training in Kenya. The dedication and determination that I have right now is at an all-time high, and I just want to keep it going,” he said.
For Williams, it is his third record on the books. He also holds the Bahamian national marks in the 5,000 meters (m) and the 3,000m steeplechase.